Exercise is not just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. Sure, exercise can improve your physical health and your physique, trim your waistline, improve your sex life, and even add years to your life. But that’s not what motivates most people to stay active. People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives.
It’s also a powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.
When we feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have other mental or emotional problems, it can seem doubly difficult. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to work out, or your social anxiety means you can’t bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park. Why does it happen?
Here are some reasons :
- When you have depression or anxiety, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do.
- Exercising with a mental illness is more complicated.
- A person with mental illness feels people who don’t understand the constraints of a mental health issue is as ill-informed as it is annoying.
- Feelings of lethargy are common in people with mood disorders, and exercising when you’re feeling that low-energy can be as close to impossible as it gets.
Taking that first step is still easier said than done. Exercise obstacles are very real—particularly when you’re also struggling with mental health.
Here are some ways to overcome these obstacles :
- Its okay to start small. Infact, its smart!
When you’re under the cloud of an emotional disorder and haven’t exercised for a long time, setting extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short.
Better to set achievable goals and build up from there. Don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to yoga or a bike ride? Don’t worry. Think about physical activity as a lifestyle rather than just a single task to check off. Look at your daily routine and consider ways to sneak in activity here, there, and everywhere.
- Schedule your workout at the time of day when your energy is highest
That may be first thing in the morning before work or school, at lunchtime before the mid-afternoon lull hits, or for longer sessions over the weekend. If depression or anxiety has you feeling tired and unmotivated all day long, try dancing to some music or simply going for a walk.
- Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing
If that still seems intimidating, don’t despair. Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, that’s okay, too. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more.
The key is to commit to some moderate physical activity—however little—on most days. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off.
You don’t have to spend hours in a gym or force yourself into long, monotonous workouts to experience the many benefits of exercise. These tips can help you find activities you enjoy and start to feel better, look better, and get more out of life. So don’t let a busy schedule at work, home or school be an excuse to avoid activity. Get moving whenever you can find the time – your body will THANK YOU!
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