Regular exercise improves our physical health, decreases our risk for severe health conditions and helps us feel better emotionally. But for many of us, our lives are so full that we don’t know how to add exercise to our already packed days. Neglecting our health at the expense of our busy schedules is dangerous for many reasons, but ultimately it can stop us from being the healthiest version of ourselves, both in mind and body. Understanding the impact that exercise has on our lives allows us to make intentional choices to improve our health.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Here are some of the common reasons we avoid exercise, and what you can do about your resistance:
- Lack of time. Lack of time is a primary concern when starting and maintaining an exercise routine. You take on so many responsibilities that you rarely have time for yourself. When you do have a moment to slow down, another critical task quickly moves to the front of the line. Even though your to-do list never ends, there is still that voice in the back of your mind—the voice of your basic needs—telling you that you need to make your health a priority. Listen to this voice! Find a few minutes in your day—10 to 15 minutes—for exercise. A quick walk in the neighborhood, a yoga class online, a quick high-intensity workout—any of these are great places to start.
- Guilt. What will my children do while I’m exercising? Am I a bad mom for going to the gym when my son is at football practice? Guilt starts as a subtle whisper, but left unchecked, it can grow louder. Sometimes we think that taking care of ourselves is equivalent to selfishness. What if I told you that exercising, and finding a consistent health care routine, is one of the most selfless acts you can give to your family? Studies show that regular exercise is linked to increased productivity and mental focus. Research suggests that regular exercise can help you become more focused on your partner, children and yourself. Letting go of self-inflicted guilt is essential to building self-care through exercise.
- Lack of knowledge. Maybe you realize that exercise is key to your long-term health, both physically and mentally. You’re ready to move! And you know the recipe for success: diet and exercise! It should be easy. Wrong! What is surprisingly easy is to get overwhelmed with the amount of exercise material online. Cardio or weight training? Aerobics or water exercises? Run or walk? Not knowing where to start or what you enjoy can easily keep you stuck. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information, consider finding a workout partner to start the journey with.
What are the emotional benefits of exercise?
- Improved ability to handle stress and overall mood. Our bodies release stress hormones as our stress level increases, which may trigger our “fight or flight” mode. Stress also triggers increased heart rate, labored breathing, and sweating. Exercise can help decrease overall stress levels. Researchers have found that exercise reorganizes the brain to increase resilience to stress. Exercise also has been shown to improve mood by increasing endorphins.
- Increased confidence. Exercise can also increase confidence. Where you work out and what you are working on helps build a sense of personal accomplishment. That’s why many “Couch to 5K” programs actually work as they allow you to build slowly on small goals. With each achievement, you can continue to work on reaching larger goals. It feels great to accomplish something new.
- Improved sleep. Exercise also improves your quality of sleep. Sufficient sleep is connected to your quality of life and overall health. Because exercise reduces anxiety, depression and stress, it can also lead to improved sleep quality. Here’s a bonus: there is a bilateral connection between exercise and sleep. As you begin to exercise more, the quality of your sleep will improve, and the quality of your workouts will also improve.
- Reduced risk of dementia. A recent research study from the American Academy for Neurology found that women with high physical fitness levels were 90% less likely to develop dementia decades later than less-fit women. Although the study does not look at the cause and effect of exercise and dementia, there is a chance that adding fitness could delay or prevent dementia.
Could we be of help in reaching your goals, personally and professionally?
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