The holidays are over, but we’d like to suggest a present that keeps on giving — movement.
“Exercise relieves anxiety, boosts energy and improves mood, memory and sleep,” says Tanya Babaei, LCSW, Supportive Medicine Social Worker at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. “Stress from a hard day’s work dissolves for me after I work out, even for 20 minutes.”
Don’t believe her? Try it for yourself.
“Notice how you feel right after a walk, how well you sleep, how refreshed you feel in the morning and how it alters your mood, positivity and outlook,” she says, crediting feel-good endorphins for that bliss.
You also gain self-confidence, strength, mobility and mental crispness, while lowering risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and cognitive decline, she says.
To recharge your workout, body and attitude, start by shifting the way you view exercise. Change from thinking it’s something you HAVE to do, to something you GET to do.
“Remind yourself of the benefits and find the joy of fitness, which stops being a should’ve, could’ve or would’ve,” Babaei says.
You can ramp up the perks of even a brief walk outdoors by tapping into your senses, says Laura Salazar-Hopps, MDiv., BCC, Supportive Medicine Chaplain at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.
Observe the beauty around you—the aromas and sounds. Feel the sun’s warmth and sensations within your body, she adds. “That’s part of the gratitude you experience while exercising,” she says.
If you need further motivation, follow Babaei and Salazar-Hopps’ tips:
Excuse: I Hate Exercise
Truth: You just haven't found the right workout yet.
Some of us prefer group fitness while others love sports and still others want to keep it simple–think a post-dinner stroll.
“Experiment and sample the fitness buffet,” Babaei says. “If you hate kickboxing, you may discover you find more joy going outside.”
And you can enhance that inner joy with external motivators.
You might post a gold star on a calendar each day you work out, or perhaps you record the steps on your FitBit. Or, maybe you treat yourself to a pedicure or massage after attaining a fitness goal.
Excuse: My Body Hurts, or I'm Too Heavy to Exercise
Truth: You're likely stronger than you think.
Get a second opinion. Talk to your doctor and possibly a trainer to find out your limitations. Most likely, they’re not as bad as you may think. You also can learn how to modify exercise and strengthen your body against injury, says Salazar-Hopps.
And if you’re benched due to injury, you can rejoin the game, even if you’re forced to take time-outs.
“It’s important to be kind to yourself and celebrate what you’re able to do despite challenges,” she says.
Excuse: I'm Not Fit Enough to Hit the Gym
Truth: This for you, not them.
To exercise, you don’t have to already be a super fit instructor or set lofty ambitions of transforming yourself. And you don’t have to work out with an audience.
More than anything, though, consider rethinking your attitude, Salazar-Hopps says. Rather than pick apart your imperfections, train yourself to be thankful for what you have. Choose self-love and the opportunity to nurture you. Sound farfetched?
Create your own affirmation and remind yourself of it nightly. "You might wish, 'May I have health, happiness, safety and deepest wellbeing.'" Practice gratitude for what you already have.
When you awake or go to bed, scan your body from head to toe, pausing at each body part and pondering what's going well. That may be not feeling pain in your feet or knees today.
“Send gratitude to your body parts,” she says. “Even if you’re sick, you can bring loving attention, gratitude and compassion to your body. You can celebrate taking care of, honoring and feeling grateful for your body. It’s the only body you have, and there’s lots more that’s right with it than wrong with it.”