Exercise. What was that? Did I just hear a groan? I know, I know, making time to exercise this time of the year is probably at the bottom of your to-do list, but keeping your body active is important.
We all know the health benefits of exercise, but did you know that it is good for your mood, stress level and brain, too? Exercise is one of the body’s natural ways to ward off depression. I’ve seen psychiatrists go so far as to actually prescribe daily exercise and time outside in the sunlight to patients with mood disorders. One of the chemicals related to stress—cortisol—metabolizes faster when we exercise, making us feel less stressed and tense. When I went to the Alzheimer’s Symposium this summer one recommendation that kept coming up from speakers was to get regular cardiovascular exercise.
So if it is so important why don’t we all do it? With some recent health problems, I gained weight this summer, and I’ve been trying to be more active physically now that I have recovered to help lose some of that weight. The challenges I face in prioritizing exercise probably aren’t too different from others:
1. Making my health and time a priority. Many women are taught from an early age to put others’ needs before their own. Being a good mother, wife, career gal meant that you spent your time focusing your energy on the needs in those relationships. Who on earth decided that this was a good thing? I learned as a new mother that when I took an hour 3 times a week to go to yoga I was a better mother. I was less stressed, more focused, more energized.
2. Motivating myself to exercise. When it is spring or summer or fall, I can trick myself into exercising all day long. A day spent working in the garden, hiking with our family, or swimming doesn’t seem the least bit taxing. In the winter, though, I tend to resort to more exercisy types of exercises. Walking in the mall, lifting weights at home, doing crunches while watching TV are easy and inexpensive ways to exercise when it is cold outside, but they just feel like a lot more work.
3. Accountability. When I’m walking at the mall alone, I have absolutely no accountability to anyone but myself. When I’m taking a yoga class, the yogi guides me, pushes me a little further than I might normally go. Working out with a trainer at a gym or even just going to a gym, means that I’m around more people who are focusing on health and fitness. When I was young and had horses and was living in the country, there were daily tasks that must be accomplished that allowed me to use my muscles. If I didn’t feed the horses hay in the winter, they were hungry.
Given those three challenges, below are some steps that I’m taking to make exercise a daily part of life:
- When I walk at the mall, it is free and warm. If I go early in the morning, there are other mall walkers with whom I can gauge my speed and level of intensity of walking. Plus, if I have an errand to run there, I must wait until 10am when the stores open, encouraging me to walk a little longer.
- I am trying to plan my errands and day around getting in a little exercise each day. Even if all I accomplish is some sit ups, push ups, and weights at home in the evening, it is better than nothing. I find that if I exercise first, I’m much more likely to get a lot done in the day, and I feel better about myself.
- When the days are a little warmer, I have a multitude of chores that I need to accomplish outside in the garden and around the house. I know that later in this week the temps are going to be a bit higher, and I’ll use those activities as my daily exercise.
- I’ll take advantage of free yoga classes provided by an employer and attend those two times a week if at all possible.
- I’m trying to limit my computer time so that I’m not sitting as much during the day.
- Whenever possible, I’ll try to walk with friends so that I’m getting in a little social time while making sure that I exercise.
What about you? How do you motivate yourself to get in some exercise?