Exercise, we all know it’s good for both our physical and our mental health, according to the Australian government recommendations ideally we want to aim for around 30 minutes of moderate exercise three days per week. Unfortunately we live in a fast paced world, people work long hours and have very limited spare time to dedicate to exercising.
Finding the motivation to exercise can be hard enough at the best of times but if you have depression it can feel nearly impossible. I have a history of eating disorders as well as the depression that comes with my Bipolar Disorder so exercise is something I have a long and sordid history with and something I still have a great deal of trouble doing in moderation. I tend to fall into the habit of either running 8km per day or using my dusty treadmill as a clothes horse with very little in between, so in this instance I will out myself as a hypocrite from the beginning of this page and suggest you follow my gold standard ‘do as I say, not as I do’ rule.
Science has proven time and time again that even if it’s just a short walk around the block, getting out into the fresh air and feeling the sun onto your face helps the happy chemicals in our brains and also gives us an important dose of vitamin D that more and more of us seem to have a deficiency in. I agree with science, I always feel better after spending time in the great outdoors, convincing myself to leave the house on the other hand can involve far more effort than the exercise itself.
Even if it’s the last thing you want to do at the time, sometimes you simply have to force yourself to get up and go outside, walk to the letter box, walk for 5 minutes, 10 minute, 15… build up slowly, do more when you feel like doing more, less on the harder days, just try and do something.
Good Reasons to Exercise and a Few Tips:
- Because ENDORPHINS! Who doesn’t love a free, natural high that doesn’t have any consequences?
- There will be no regrets. It’s pretty rare that you will regret going out for a walk, the chances that you would be attacked by a dingo or bitten by a brown snake are pretty small and surely outweighed by the benefits. I suspect that you would be far more likely to regret not going and who needs more guilt and regret in their life?
- Do you own a dog? I know what I just said and I don’t usually condone guilt, it’s an overwhelming emotion that most of us could do without, but in this case I’ll allow it. Your dog loves you unconditionally, it doesn’t care if you haven’t showered in a week and spent all day in bed binge watching Netflix, look at those big brown eyes, you owe it to that dog to take it for a walk!
- Try the reward system. No, I don’t mean you should give yourself a Kit Kat every time you walk around the block! Reward yourself with another form of self care -e.g. have some guilt free ‘me’ time, take a relaxing bath, read a good book, say ‘no’ to someone and don’t feel bad about it.
- Listen to music or podcasts as you exercise. I invested in a good quality pair of wireless earphones (okay, I bought them on a whim during a manic spending spree) and they are fantastic! They are designed for use while exercising so I can keep my phone in my pocket and keep listening to podcasts while I walk or have a peppy music playlist going while I run without the ear buds falling out constantly and driving me crazy.
- Exercise with a friend. Its much easier to cancel on yourself than cancelling on a friend, none of your excuses seem quite as legitimate if you have to justify them to someone else.
- Take the stairs not the lift. An oldie but a goodie, bonus points if you work in an office building with a slow elevator, then you can try and beat your colleagues up to your floor. Pro tip: make sure you are standing at the elevator doors when they open shaking your head and looking at your watch with a sarcastic judgy face.
Prefer something indoorsy? What about Yoga? You can even do it for free in the comfort and privacy of your own living room! There are a billion You Tube ‘how to’ videos for people of all shapes, sizes, abilities and fitness levels. Or if you have an old Wii Fit floating around the yoga exercises on that are actually pretty fun, because it’s interactive time seems to go faster and over time you will realise that these little manoeuvres are surprisingly good at toning your body. You don’t have to contort yourself into a pretzel on your first go, just build up slowly and you will discover that it’s a surprisingly relaxing for a form of exercise.
What NOT to do:
Rule #1: Don’t exercise to lose weight, exercise to improve your health. It’s a frame of mind thing, if you are exercising with the sole intention of weight loss you can end up disappointing yourself and stopping whereas regardless of whether you are losing weight or not, each time you exercise you are improving your overall physical health so you are ALWAYS succeeding in your goal of doing a positive thing for your body. Weight loss may be a bonus for some people.
Rule #2: Don’t set unrealistic or unobtainable goals. Don’t spend a bomb on a gym membership or declare that you are going to run every single day for an hour at a time. Life happens and no matter how dedicated you are in the beginning, it is likely that something will crop up and break the habit resulting in feelings of guilt and failure which does NOT help you keep healthy. Instead aim to exercise three times a week, give yourself options of different exercises and if you want to do more then that is a bonus.
Rule #3: Don’t overdo it. Exercise should become a positive part of your lifestyle rather than a chore that you hate. If you are not used to exercising then taking on too much too quickly can actually do more harm than good. Build up slowly, yes, sometimes you will need to push yourself and that is healthy but the result should be endorphins flowing through your body and an improvement in overall health not extreme stress followed by days and days of sore muscles.
Rule #4: Never, ever buy any of those newfangled machiney things from commercials during daytime television. (Fight me, Danoz Direct.) They all suck. This is clearly evidenced by the sheer number of them being used as clothes horses, rusting in sheds across the country, or available second hand on e-bay, if you have any proof of someone (you know directly) obtaining all of their fitness goals using only an air walker or ab-pro plus then please feel free to e-mail me their story and I will happily put it on the blog with a retraction statement.