The pursuit of health, personal growth, and improved quality of life relies on living a balanced life. To achieve balance, we need to care for our mind, body, and spirit. Fitness is essential toward maximizing our level of health and wellness to live a long, full, and healthy life.
These days most of us feel pretty out of control, and are constantly trying to cross things off our "To Do" list, just trying to keep our head above water. Those stresses and putting yourself last will indeed take a toll on your body, mind and health. Implementing daily workouts empower you to feel in control, and provide a moment in the day to focus on yourself.
Besides the physical gains we get from exercise, such as warding off stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, cancer, arthritis and falls, it is vital to our mental health:
- Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication — but without the side-effects. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
- Exercise promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins that energize your spirits and make you feel good.
- Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.
- Getting outside in any way, shape or form is a powerful way to instantly improve your mood. Sunshine is essential for the production of Vitamin D, which clears that foggy brain and helps you to feel happier and more alive, or at least have more clarity for your next task. Now, there's an added bonus for exercising outdoors!
- Working out lowers the amount of cortisol that your brain releases, making you physically and mentally healthier. Lowering cortisol levels are always a good thing, since excess cortisol also encourages fat gain, particularly around the abdomen, which then heightens your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
If you are new to fitness, or are getting back at it, start it out easy. Try to work on some fundamental exercises and progress slowly, perhaps just 30 minutes a day. You do not have to marry yourself to particular weightlifting modality or principle. Each person out there has different goals, needs, injury histories, experience, and equipment access. What works for one person won't always work the same way for the next. Never compare yourself to another, YOU are in charge of you, no one else is.
The only program that works is one you enjoy - otherwise you won't follow it. One person’s happy place may be yoga at the ass crack of dawn, while another person’s bliss is sweating it out at a boot-camp right after work. Do what makes you feel like the super hero you are and schedule it at a time you know you have the gusto to make it happen. Make exercise a legitimate appointment with yourself, ON YOUR CALENDAR, just like all your other important appointments. YOU are important, don’t let anyone or yourself tell you anything different.
How to get started:
We all need a boost or motivation to get our asses moving and shaking every so often, and that’s where other folks may help you get your groove back. Try to get a buddy to take a hike with, or walk your dog a little further each day. Partner up with a friend via the phone, and share a text when you have completed a workout to get the praise for accomplishing being the bad ass you are, or have them tell you get off the damn couch and move your body when you just can’t fathom moving again. If you enjoy getting out of the house to work out, think about taking a class that strikes your fancy. Maybe you’ll find some pretty cool, like minded folks to get your sweat on with and find your happy place for working out. If those ideas don’t turn your crank, perhaps a few sessions with a personal trainer can help you get on the path to consistently working out. Many trainers even work out of gyms, and some come right to your home so you will have no excuses, nowhere to hide, and the skills brought directly to you without crowds or a drive to the gym.
Get the most bang for your buck:
Consistent workout routines provide vast benefits for our entire being, increase our strength and fitness. That said there is a fine line between training hard and overtraining. Short, intense workouts can be great for inducing fat loss, increasing aerobic capacity, and reducing risk for cardiovascular disease. On the flip side, engaging in these physically demanding activities too regularly or too intensely can contribute to negative symptoms of overtraining for some. Excessively intense exercise can even cause a variety of health problems, especially for those dealing with other heath factors such as autoimmune disease, gut issues, or adrenal fatigue. In short, overtraining can be a source of stress, instead of the stress relief we want to glean from fitness.
Here are a few techniques to avoid unhealthy body responses while still challenging your body:
- Reduce the frequency. While pushing yourself hard at the gym is not necessarily problematic, doing it too often during the week is overtraining. High intensity, high stress exercise should be limited to two or three times a week, especially for those who are dealing with other health issues, especially autoimmune conditions or digestive troubles.
- Mix it up. High intensity exercise may be ideal for losing body fat and improving lean muscle mass. Instead of doing a hard-core workout on your fourth workout, try doing a yoga class or walk outside instead to focus on hormonal and neurotransmitter balance, which is also supporting your fitness goals. This form of movement also encourages quick recovery from your more intense exercise schedule and reduce stress. It's all about balance.
- People with active autoimmune disease. Avoid high-intensity workouts such as long distance running, and opt for low-moderate intensity cardio or strength training.
- Remember to rest. Plan for rest days and time in your workouts for rest and recovery. This "down time" is essential for the metabolic changes we want to glean from exercise and for building strength.
- Reach out for support. Grab a buddy, hire a personal trainer, find a way to stay engaged, empowered and accountable to your efforts.
Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity, Mayo Clinic
For Depression, Prescribing Exercise before Medication by Olga Khazan published in the Atlantic