When the time came as a teenager to pick a sport to play, I chose badminton. After years of showing up for physical education, sweating and having to go back to class feeling not so fresh, I was done with the notion of exercise. I saw the kids playing badminton leaving school the earliest – off to enjoy their day of fun and freedom in the warm, Southern California sun.
My Mom had a different idea for me. She knew the importance of community and exercise and saw me traveling an unhealthy path. As a result, she connected with the school counselor and they, collectively, decided cross country would be a better fit for me.
I started running for the first time in the early hours of the morning during my, gasp (!!!), summer vacation at 13 years-old. I was slow and even though running is something we can do without being taught much, I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. All the same, by the end of my second day, I felt really good.
This experience is what began my lifelong love of exercise.
If you are a person who also enjoys a great workout, you may be nodding your head and smiling right now. If you are a person who detests working out, you may be cursing my name and shaking your head.
My intention for writing this post is to share the joy exercise can bring and the many different ways it can help us through our own crap.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Pings on our phones, dings in our inboxes, and negative 24-hour news stories can send us into a tailspin of anxiety. Exercise is proven to help with stress and anxiety because it releases endorphins, which makes us feel good. Psychologists that study exercise for stress and anxiety reduction, say that even a 10-minute walk can make a difference.
Improves Brain Function
This study talks about the impact of exercise on the brain. In summary, exercise can help with processing information, memory, and increases our capacity to pay attention.
Helps You Sleep Better
If you find yourself counting sheep at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 AM, exercise can help you sleep better.
Positively Impacts Your Health
This one may be the most obvious and, yet, we forget how much of a positive impact exercise has on our health. It can help us lose weight, help our bones and muscles stay strong, lower our blood pressure, keep our heart healthy, reduce our chances of getting sick, and can reduce chronic pain.
If you’re in a place today where exercise is not part of your regular routine but you’d like it to be, what is one thing that it will provide you with that will impact your life? Is there something on the list above that you wish you had that you don’t?
Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate exercise into your day:
- Walk more. Park further from where you’re going, take the stairs, go to the coffee shop three more blocks away than you usually do, meet a friend for coffee and take it to go and walk through your neighborhood. Walk around the block during your work day.
- Recognize your accomplishments. When you make progress on exercising, make a check mark on a post-it, write it down in a journal, use an app to track your progress, or type it/dictate it into a note on your phone. We tend to forget the good stuff we do and focus on what we’re not doing enough of. Give yourself a break and honor your progress.
- Sign up for a class. A lot of gyms, yoga studios, bootcamps, etc. have discounted incentives to get you going. Sign up for one of them to help you form a new habit. It doesn’t have to be until the end of time – try it for 30 days and see if you like it.
- Workout at home. There are several apps, YouTube shows, streaming options, and videos for working out. I spent an entire year doing Jillian Michaels’ exercise classes via Amazon BeFit. If you prefer yoga, try Yoga with Adriene or an app – check out this resource. If you’re restricted on time but want to start somewhere, check out an app like the 7-Minute Workout app.
Exercise can be the beginning of something incredible and open your world to opportunity, good feelings, and a new community. Here’s to your health and happiness!