We all know that exercise is good for our physical health and regular exercise is proven to lower blood pressure, heart disease and lead to a longer life. What many do not realize is the positive impact that even a few minutes of exercise can have on our mental well-being.
Research has proven that within minutes of engaging in physical exercise (aerobic or anerobic) one can see an increased positive mood, decreased anxiety and a decrease in stress. A long term physical exercise program can assist in preventing or reducing both clinical depression and anxiety. Even a simple exercise program can also boost positive effects of therapy and medication leading to an ability to meet goals faster and sustain improvements.
Whether you are looking to just improve your mood, feel a little happier, reduce anxiety and feel a little more relaxed or even if you suffer from clinical depression or anxiety you may find some significant relief by engaging in any type of physical exercise. From a simple walk outdoors, to joining an exercise class all the way to training for a goal such as a half marathon or other competition, there could be major positive impact on your mental health as well as your physical health!
So where do you start?
ALWAYS start with your physician before starting a new exercise program. It is important that your doctor be aware of any changes you are thinking of making. Your doctor will give you clear direction as to where you should begin.
If you do have physical limitations, be sure and ask your physician about alternative ways to exercise. This could include low impact workouts such as water aerobics or modifications that make the exercise safe and beneficial for you. If suggestions are not offered, be sure and ask!
What about time or money?
Many well-intentioned folks lose their motivation or never get started with a new exercise routine because they think they do not have the time or money. Truth is, there is always time and money need not ever be an obstacle. Positive benefits can be found in as little as 30 minutes a day, and this time can be incorporated into free and accessible environments such as parking your car as far away as possible from work and having a brisk walk into the office. Get creative, if time or money is tight, opportunities abound if you look. Walk or run while the kids are at practice or at the park, do sit ups during commercials of your favorite show or maybe walk or ride a bike instead of driving to the store or dinner. Many exercise programs are regularly shown on television, cable or streaming programs and can be viewed at your convenience. Take full advantage of free programs offered through your local health department or community organizers.
How do you find the motivation?
The wonderful thing about exercise is that it pays off with many dividends. Make a list of all the positive benefits you would gain from starting exercise. This might include not only the physical and mental health benefits but let’s not forget the fact that it will ultimately lead to other major benefits including lower weight and higher energy levels. Who doesn’t want better health, less anxiety and depression while also looking better and having more energy?
Remember it takes time to build a new habit, your first couple of weeks of you might need to read your list of benefits daily to help motivate you to do what is good for you. In time, the new habit will build and will become a part of your daily routine (kind of like brushing your teeth). In the meantime, challenge the discouraging thoughts with all those positive benefits!
Set an achievable goal, and give yourself a reward when you reach it. Positive reinforcement will always be our best motivator. Be good to yourself, and when you reach that goal, celebrate it! A friendly competition with a family member, friend or coworker can also increase your accountability and motivation. If you both reach the goal you can celebrate together!
If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns that seem to be making the thought of even starting exercise overwhelming, remember you can start small. Even increasing your physical exercise by a few minutes can have a positive impact on your mood. Talk with a therapist about other ways to remove obstacles that seem to be preventing you from taking those first steps!