We all know that exercising is beneficial for our bodies. It helps us stay fit, shapes our muscles, improves overall stamina, and can even have a positive impact on our sexual life. However, there is a lot more to being active than just maintaining a good physique. Exercising can do a lot of good to our mental health, too. It is known to be helpful for people who suffer from anxiety, ADHD, depression, and several other conditions. In addition, exercising helps people sleep better and relieve stress, as well as enhance memory and improve overall mood. What’s more, you don’t necessarily have to devote a lot of time to it, as studies show that even moderate amounts of exercise on a regular basis can be highly beneficial.
Exercising to Address Anxiety?
Although it may seem far-fetched, regular physical activity is an effective natural way to treat anxiety that is also free of adverse effects. It improves mental fitness, increases alertness and concentration, and even enhances overall cognitive function. This can be a truly great advantage for patients who have had their ability to concentrate impaired by stress. Physical activities also trigger the production of endorphin inside the body, which contributes to feeling calmer and happier. In addition, endorphin acts as a natural painkiller, so it reduces the effects of stress quite effectively.
Generally, feeling stressed or anxious is a part of life. You cannot escape them, and they are in fact necessary for the body to become alert in difficult or dangerous situations. However, when they occur in excessive amounts, the organism is forced to function in fight-or-flight mode all the time, which exhausts the resources of the body. This leads to exhaustion, insomnia, poor short-term memory, headaches, etc. People who experience such symptoms often suffer from anxiety disorders.
Resolving anxiety disorders through physical activity is a concept that attracts a lot of attention from various research teams. Scientists have found that in some people, a short walk can be just as beneficial for mental health as a 45-minute-long workout session. Similarly, different people tend to react to physical activities in different ways: some patients are able to get rid of their anxiety symptoms in very short time after starting their exercises, while others don’t feel any benefits until weeks or even months of exercising have passed. However, no matter how responsive to physical activity your body is, it will always benefit from your workouts, even if you don’t feel the results immediately. For instance, one recent study has shown that people who exercise vigorously on a regular basis are 25% less likely to develop depression or anxiety disorders in the long run.
How to Start Working out Despite Stress and Anxiety
What if you want to start working out, but somehow never feel up to it? Psychologists have found out the most common reasons for such an attitude and formulated some advice on how to get past it:
- “I already feel exhausted.” The truth is, even if you feel tired after a hard day at work, you’re still going to benefit from a workout, as it works as a powerful energizer for your body. When you’re done with your exercises, you’re likely to feel better than before you started them. You can take things slowly and avoid overstraining yourself, but should still develop a habit of working out on a regular basis.
- “I am way too busy for this.” You might be overloaded at work and have some extra duties such as caring for a family member or a child, so fitting workout sessions into your schedule might seem hardly possible. However, when a person puts a particular activity into perspective, he/she is usually capable of finding time for it. In addition, remember that exercising will make you feel better and more focused, so you might end up doing the rest of your chores more effectively after a workout session.
- “I’m too unfit/weak.” If you’re obese or suffer from certain medical conditions like cardiovascular diseases, physical activity is highly likely to seem difficult, but you can start slow. Concentrate on every single movement, don’t do fast exercises, and don’t try to complete a 45-minute program as soon as you begin working out. With some patience, you will see the results of your efforts after about after a month of exercising.
- “I feel pain in some area of my body while exercising.” Pain is a sign that something inside the body is not as it should be, so you must not ignore it. However, you can talk to your healthcare provider about it and together you can work out some ways for you to keep fit without overstraining yourself. One great option is walking, as it involves a lot of muscles and it is accessible to nearly everyone. You can start at a pace that is comfortable for you and speed up if you feel like it later.
You might be surprised, but in fact, as little as five 30-minute sessions of working out with moderate effort in a week are enough to maintain your mental health in a good condition. If you have a busy lifestyle, you could even split those 30 minutes into two 15-minute or three 10-minute sessions. You might not be in a good shape when you begin, so it is a good idea to start slowly, keeping an eye out for any negative signals from your body. If you feel like you need a break after 5 minutes of working out, do not hesitate to stop and wait until you’re ready to engage in physical activity again. If you do so and follow a certain schedule, in some time, you will feel stronger, and might wish to add some time to your exercising session or start doing new, more challenging exercises.
Keeping yourself motivated after you’ve taken the first steps towards your fitness goals just as important as finding the strength to begin.
The following recommendations can make it easier for you:
- Do what you enjoy. Nothing kills motivation more than forcing yourself to do something that you find difficult, uninteresting, or pointless. Find an activity that you thoroughly enjoy, and focus on it, at least at the beginning. Anything that makes you move counts, whether it’s playing a sport, walking your dog, or window-shopping. When you get used to certain levels of physical activity on a regular basis, you can move on to jogging, exercising, or even working out at a gym.
- Make sure that you feel comfortable. Find appropriate clothes that do not restrain your movements in any way. If you’re more of an introverted person, find a nice quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed while exercising. On the other hand, if you prefer company, you could invite a friend or family member to join you.
- Reward yourself. It is true that the biggest benefit of working out is a strong, healthy body, but you might also want to add some smaller, immediate rewards: a hot bath, a tasty smoothie, or some extra time for your hobby (drawing, reading, playing an instrument, etc.) will do just fine.
If your schedule is way too packed to fit in those 30 minutes for a workout, don’t despair: you can still add more physical activity to your routine even without devoting some specific time to it. Think of anything that gets you moving during the day: go for a walk during your lunch break, do some gardening, clean your home, wash your car, use a bike or walk on foot instead of driving or taking a bus, take your family along on bike trips, or try your hand at team sports on the weekends. The possibilities are limitless once you start considering them.