I’m not running unless there’s a really big animal chasing me and I’m slower than the person I’m with. For many years that was definitely my motto for nearly any exercise. A couple years back, playing in my church league softball and rec basketball league was the only regular exercise I got. Unfortunately, it wasn’t regular enough to count.
Fast forward two years and I have just completed my twelfth race, of which four were marathons and eight half marathons. It’s at this point, I wish I could have yelled or at least gently motivated the old me to get moving and stay moving at a much earlier age. One of the biggest benefits for me has been how much clearer you feel and more energy you have after beginning your day with activity instead of beating the top of the alarm clock every 9 minutes for snooze. It helps your mind get away from the clutter of the day before the day starts and really helps you start out making an impact in your life before many people get out of bed.
Many fear starting an exercise regimen may require new shoes, color coordinated outfits, a new watch and paying a lot of money to have someone tell you what to do every step of the way. While those things are nice, the only thing that getting started truly requires is taking the first step. As Zig Ziglar says “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to start to be great”
We often talk about the mind and body as though they are completely separate – but they aren’t. The mind can’t function unless your body is working properly – but it also works the other way. The state of your mind affects your body.
Why bother with exercise?
To work properly, your body needs regular exercise – and most of us feel good when we are active.
So how can you start to get more active, day to day? You may be turned off by the word ‘exercise’ because of common excuses such as:
I’ve never done it, I would feel silly, I’m too tired, I don’t have anyone to do it with and I don’t know where, when or how to start.
It doesn’t have to be about running around a track or working out in a gym. It can just be about being more active each day – perhaps just walking more or taking the stairs rather than the elevator.
Here are some benefits of walking 30 minutes a day.
It reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 27%. This exercise is ideal for controlling high blood pressure; it improves circulation, reduces bad cholesterol (LDL), and helps increase good cholesterol (HDL). Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility. Additionally, when you make your walks social—you stride with, say, your partner, a neighbor or a good friend—that interaction helps you feel connected, which can boost your mood.
What happens if you don’t do very much?
Some people can get away with doing very little and live to a ripe old age – but most of us can’t. Broadly speaking, the less you do, the more likely you are to end up with several things including low mood, depression, tension and worry.
How much exercise is enough for me?
First – any exercise is better than none.
BUT a moderate level of exercise seems to work best.
This is roughly equivalent to walking fast, but being able to talk to someone at the same time.
You need to do about 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise at least 5 days of every week. This can be done in one 30-minute session or broken up into shorter 10 or 15-minute sessions.
Don’t start suddenly – build more physical activity into your life gradually, in small steps.
When should I exercise?
As regularly as you can. There will be days when you just don’t feel like exercise – you may feel tired or be too busy. If you keep to your routine and exercise at times like this, you will almost certainly feel better.
It’s best not to do too much in the evening. Being active will generally help you to sleep but, if you exercise late in the evening, you may find it difficult to settle.
Caffeine and high energy snacks will boost your energy quickly – but after an hour or so you will probably feel more tired than you did before. A short walk will boost your energy level for much longer.
If you are active you will probably find it easier to deal with life’s problems and challenges. So – if those problems stop you from regularly exercising, it’s worth remembering that finding time for exercise may help you to deal with such problems.
Exercise can also help you to cope better by improving how you feel about yourself and getting you together with other people.
Then set yourself some goals. Make sure they are:
S – Specific (clear)
M – Measurable – you will know when you’ve achieved them
A – Achievable – you can achieve them
R – Relevant – they mean something to you
T – Time-based – you set yourself a time limit to achieve your goals.
The most important step to take is the first, so take it and you’ll look back in a month, 6 months or a year and really be glad that you did!