Exercise and Health: Removing the Barriers to Mental Wellness
The link between exercise and health has been studied many times and the benefits of regular activity are not just physical. When we exercise, chemicals are released by the brain which help us to feel better mentally. Exercise helps us to look better, sleep better and fight off illness and disease.
SO WHAT STOPS US FROM EXERCISING?
When we feel low or depressed, it can be difficult to entertain the notion of exercising at all. And despite living in an increasingly health-conscious society, some of the marketing ploys used to get us to the gym or the sports centre are not always helpful. If we feel under pressure or like we’re not good enough, we might forget that it’s OK to take small steps and that every effort counts in our journey to being well.
Here are some of the reasons you might have for putting off exercising and what you can do about it.
I won’t be able to do it.
Fearing failure is one of the biggest barriers between exercise and health. The trick is to build up slowly and not to be discouraged. Aggressive exercise plans only work for those who are training for professional sports. So start slow and take your time. Even if you go to an exercise class, it’s much better to take it slowly than to feel pressured into doing too much and feeling you don’t want to go back.
I haven’t got time.
In a busy week full of jobs, childcare and household tasks, when do we have time to exercise? Joining a gym which is close by your home or on your way to a regular appointment may help, or enlisting the help of others to give you extra time in your week. After all, your health is important. Give yourself permission to free up time to work on it.
Exercising usually means putting yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’re scared of going to the gym, take a friend with you or if possible try to go at a time of day when it’s not so crowded. You could also try joining a beginner’s running group if you don’t fancy going jogging on your own.
I’ve missed a few classes, there’s no point.
Staying motivated after the initial decision to start exercising is the hardest part of all. Don’t worry if you miss a few classes here and there – other things will inevitably get in the way from time to time. The important thing is to give yourself permission to keep going.
I feel too depressed.
It can be a mammoth task to motivate yourself to exercise when you’re facing a tough time. If it helps, try a different activity or ask a friend to give you a lift to a class. If you regularly see a counsellor for depression, they will be able to see your progress and give you encouragement to keep going. Anything you can do to remove the barrier to exercise will help you carry on.
It’s too dark/cold/wet outside!
When the seasons change, it’s harder to exercise outdoors. Create a winter exercise plan which involves more indoor classes so you know you’ve got something to follow when the weather gets bad.
I still feel like there’s no point.
Sometimes it can help to give ourselves a challenge to look forward to in order to keep ourselves going. Maybe you could do a charity fun run or a sponsored mountain climb. If you can join up with a team who are going to do the same event, this will help you to stay on track.
IT IS MORE THAN WORTH IT
The best thing about exercise and health is the sense of achievement you will feel after completing a target. You don’t have to push yourself beyond your limits – if you can find it in you to keep going, that will be more than enough.