Are you keeping emotionally fit?

“… physical activity helps reduce stress, depression and anxiety … “

It’s not a myth put out by gyms to make you sign up, it’s a proven fact. By participating in physical activity – and I’m not saying a slow amble down the shop to get an icecream – you increase the natural endorphins in your body. And quite simply, that’s your body’s naturally produced chemical high. It makes you feel good.

People give themselves lots of excuses as to why they don’t want to start regular exercise … do some of these sound familiar?

  • Exercise is just about losing weight and building muscles.
  • I need to join a sports club or gym.
  • I need special workout equipment
  • I have a physical job so I don’t need to
  • I’m exhausted after work so I just want to relax
  • I have an illness or injury

… and I’m sure you can come up with a dozen more.

But the truth is – and you I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this because you already know deep down inside – you are just making excuses for yourself. So let’s dispel these excuses one by one.

Excuse / Myth: Exercise is just about losing weight and building muscles.
Sure it can be, if that’s what you want. Personally one of the reasons I work out is that my body is aging and I have some health issues, but I still want to be active. But I also enjoy the feeling after a good workout. My head feels clearer, I can focus on my work better, I feel happier. And sometimes just joining in with friends bike riding, working out, dancing, going for a trek is a fun way to catchup. I feel so much more positive than if I sat in a café. (Although that’s nice too on occasion)

Excuse / Myth: I need to join a sports club or gym. I need special workout equipment.
Again this is totally up to you, but there’s nothing stopping you from exploring your local neighbourhood with a brisk walk. Kicking the ball in the park with the kids, or going for a swim at the beach. If you want to do some basic weights, have a look at what’s around your home (perhaps some water bottles would make a good start). And a quick youtube search will show you heaps of body weight exercises you can also do.

Excuse / Myth: I have a physical job so I don’t need to.  I’m exhausted after work so I just want to relax
Ultimately this is not about exercising solely for fitness, it’s about participating in physical activity to get those endorphins going in your brain and make you feel good. And unfortunately when you’re doing physical activity at work the mere fact that you’re working counteracts those feel good chemicals. So the best thing you can do – even if your job is physical – is to still participate in a fun physical activity. Maybe it’s going for a bike ride, heading to the gym and taking it out on a punching bag, or meeting your friends to laugh and dance the zumba.

Excuse / Myth: I can’t exercise because I have an injury or reduced ability
This is where you do need to get advice before you start anything major, because we don’t want to you make your injury worse. But almost every injury or reduced ability will allow you to do something –  you just need to work out what it is. For example, due to arthritis and reduced lung capacity (brought on by my cancer treatment) there are many exercises I struggle with, and some I just can’t do. But by working the right muscle groups, and starting out small, I have managed to build my lung capacity and the muscles surrounding the effected areas to compensate.

Excuse / Myth: I can’t exercise because I have an illness
Did you know that physical activity actually increases your immune system and helps your body fight? Again, this is a fact, not a myth. Physical activity gets your heart pumping and your lungs working, in turn moving oxygenated blood around your body. Fatigue is a very common side effect of many cancer treatments, along with lowered immunity. Your body is so busy fighting the disease as well as the treatment that there’s often very little left for anything else. So you feel run down and exhausted. Exercise is the absolute last thing on your mind.  But even the smallest amount of physical activity (maybe it’s 1 minute on a treadmill, or a lap of your back yard) does help both the body and the mind during this tough time. But make sure you chat with your doctor about what you can do, and how much.

So we’ve kicked your excuses to the kerb, but you’re still not really sure what kind of physical activity you want to be doing or how often? And while, not everyone wants to run a marathon, or workout 5 days a week at the gym, the type and amount of activity you do is really totally up to you. The point is to get your heart rate up, to breath a little heavier that you would walking around the shops, and do it regularly.  So you might choose to train for a marathon by running every day, or maybe you go for a 15 minute walk with the dog after dinner every night. The point is to do it regularly, and to push yourself a little more each time.

And finally, for all those people struggling with the motivation – because even top sports stars struggle – it’s simply about setting a realistic routine. And track your progress. It may take you 15 minutes to walk your block each night, but after a couple of weeks it’s only taking you 10 minutes. That’s a win!! Stick with the 15 minutes, but walk a little further.

Enjoy those endorphins, and stay emotionally fit.