If you live where winter means snow, ice and mud, you may have avoided exercising, or may have been promising yourself that when spring comes you will exercise regularly. Now is the time to begin. With spring right around the corner, you can’t afford to put it off any longer. And if you live where winter is just beginning, exercise will help keep you well through this dark season.
Regular exercise, whatever you can do, holds the promise of increased energy and renewed vitality. For people who experience depression or other troubling mental health symptoms, exercise often helps relieve these symptoms, and leads to increased levels of wellness and stability. People have reported that they sleep better, think more clearly, have less nervousness and anxiety, feel happy and content more often, feel better about themselves, lose weight, develop strength and enjoy a sense of well-being. Many people reported that they feel and look younger when they exercise regularly. I have heard of doctors who prescribe an exercise routine instead of, or in addition to, medications. For people who can’t afford expensive medications, exercise may be even more important. It is sometimes referred to as the cheapest and most available anti-depressant.
The First Step
Before you begin to exercise, call your physician and arrange for a physical examination if any of the following conditions is true:
If you have been doing some exercise and know it is not enough, and do not have age, health or disability issues to address, begin your exercise program or your increase in exercise gradually. Your body adapts more easily to gradual change and you will miss out on all the aches and pains that come with too much exercise before your body is ready for it. A warm bath after you exercise the first few times will help to relieve any aches and pains in case you inadvertently over-exercise.
Assess the exercise you have been getting, whether it is exercise for the sake of exercise or exercise you get as part of your job or daily routine. For instance, if you walk up three flights of stairs each day to get to your office, consider that part of your current exercise. Perhaps you have to walk two blocks from the train station to your apartment. Or you spend some time each day bending and lifting as you stock shelves. Maybe you spend time providing care for one or several active toddlers.
Decide what would fit in your schedule that would provide you with some increase in your daily physical activity – again, not too drastic. You might start by walking for ten more minutes. Or you might build a 20-minute bicycle ride into your day. Perhaps it would be 20 minutes more working outside in your garden.
Choosing The Right Exercise Program For You
When setting up an exercise program that is right for you, focus your attention on what you enjoy. If you are the kind of person who enjoys team supports, you may want to sign up with the local softball league for some of your exercise. If solitary exercise feels best to you, think of things you can do by yourself. You may enjoy hiking but not swimming. A brisk ride on a bicycle may be perfect for you. Is it swimming, hiking, dancing, working out on exercise machines while watching videos, skating, outdoor chores like raking the lawn or cutting wood, walking, yoga, etc., etc., etc.? Any kind of exercise is acceptable!
You can do the same kind of exercise every day or vary it according to the weather, what you feel like and the things you need to get done. You may spend part of your exercise time doing one kind of exercise and part of the time doing another. You might work in the garden and then go for a walk. This makes exercise more interesting for some of us.
Health clubs are wonderful for people who enjoy exercising with others in an atmosphere that is pleasant and sociable. Joining a health club is a wonderful, but not a necessary treat if you can afford it. Don’t put off exercise until you have enough money to join a health club or until you can purchase expensive exercise clothing or equipment. Most exercise doesn’t take special clothing or equipment – just a lot of will power.
It may help you decide what kind of exercise you are going to do if you make a list of exercise options and post it in a convenient place. Then you can look at the list each day and decide how you are going to get your exercise that day. If it is raining you may want to dance to your favorite CD rather than taking your usual walk. If the softball team doesn’t have a game, you may want to catch up on outdoor chores.
Walk deserves special focus because it is often the easiest, most convenient and best exercise for many people. It works well because:
Difficulty Beginning Or Sticking To An Exercise Program
Like most people, you may have had difficulty beginning or sticking to an exercise program. You may feel that you don’t have time, that it interferes with other responsibilities and that you won’t enjoy it. Perhaps one or several of the following suggestions would help you solve this problem.
Avoid sabotaging yourself. If you miss a day, several days or even weeks of exercise, don’t give up and stop exercising. Just start in again. If you have a long hiatus or have stopped exercising because of an injury or illness, start again gradually.
Regular exercise has many benefits. It may help you to stick to your exercise regime if you keep a record of your exercise and how it makes you feel. Each time you exercise, write a few sentences in a notebook that describes what you did, how you felt before you did it, how you felt after you did it, and any short or longer term benefits you are noticing. This helps to keep you on track and is a strong motivator if you review your writings from time to time.
Reprinted by permission from HelpHorizons.com