I am sure that you have been told time and time again that exercise can improve your health and your body composition, trim that waistline, and even add years to your life. Whilst this is true, what has been neglected until fairly recently is the mental health benefits of exercising, some of which can be life changing and help you discover your smile.
Regardless of the fact that you may hate lacing up your trainers and going for a run or your children may hate going to swimming lessons, the positive effects on mental health from exercising can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.
Why exercise regularly?
People who exercise regularly tend to do so as it provides them with an increased sense of well-being. They have more energy throughout the day, they sleep better at night, their memory improves, and they feel relaxed, more positive about their lives and themselves…
Exercise can also be a powerful medicine for many mental health challenges and in an upcoming blog post I will go into some detail about how exercise helps to combat these challenges.
Empowering you to start your journey.
If you were wondering how much activity is needed to give you a mental health boost, it’s probably not as much as you think.
There is no need to devote hours and hours of your precious time each day to train in the gym like Arnie, swim like Rebecca Adlington, or run mile after mile like Sir Mo.
For adults, participating in moderate exercise for 30 minutes five times a week is enough for you to gain the physical and mental health benefits that exercise provides – yes that’s right, only 2.5hours a week.
Children should aim to be physically active for 60 minutes every day – sitting less and moving more!!
You don’t even need to do all 30 minutes in one go. You can split the activities in to two 15-minute slots or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can work just as well – you just need to give it a go.
I can appreciate that for some of you 30 minutes will still feel like the London Marathon and seem intimidating.
Please don’t despair.
Taking the first steps….
Like any journey, to reach your potential you just need to take the first step.
Be aspirational but realistic – set small goals to measure your progress and use them to motivate you. A few minutes of physical activity is better than none at all. If you can’t fit 15 / 30 minutes of exercise into your schedule, or if your body screams at you that you need to stop after 5 or 10 minutes, that’s okay too.
Start small with 5 or 10-minute sessions and gradually increase the activity time.
The more you exercise, the greater energy you’ll have. Eventually you will feel ready to increase the duration of your activity time.
Continue on the path – commit!!
The key is committing to undertake some moderate physical activity—however little it may be—most days.
As exercising becomes habitual, you can add extra minutes or vary the types of activities you do. Perseverance is necessary to ensure the benefits of exercise begin to pay off.
Ways to be active that don’t involve the gym:
If you don’t have 30 minutes of your day to dedicate to yoga or a treadmill- don’t worry.
Think about physical activity as a lifestyle rather than just a task to tick off.
Consider your daily routine and look at ways to sneak in activities that get you moving.
If you are at home you could clean the house, wash the car, cut the grass, sweep the patio or decking – you could involve children in most of these and make them family activities.
The working day:
You could participate in the cycle to work scheme / active travel (school scheme) as oppose to drive, use the stairs not the elevator, and go for a walk during your tea / lunch break. Leaving the office and going for a walk is also a great way to decompress and relax during your working day.
When it is family time you could make a bike ride part of your weekend routine, (apps like Strava help you track your activities) if you have children you could play tagging games or other activities in the garden or even walk the dog in a new place. Being out of doors is a prime time for boosting your activity levels, and research suggests that doing physical activity in an outdoor, ‘green’ environment has greater positive effects on wellbeing compared to physical activity indoors.
Every little helps…
Making small changes, from leaving the car at home for those short journeys or getting off the bus a stop earlier, to higher-intensity activities like joining in with your children’s football game or jogging with the dog, can help to boost your mood.
The key is to focus on activities that you enjoy.
Any activity that involves you moving counts – make exercise a fun part of your normal everyday life and start the journey to becoming #HealthyMe #HappyMe #FutureMe #ActiveMe