Exercise and Mental Health

It’s too hard to exercise now with everything else that’s going on. Do I really need this?

Movement is important for our wellbeing and during lockdown having to stay indoors should not stop us from keeping fit. We have to be mindful that while staying home is a safety measure that helps us fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we tend to become sedentary spending our time at the computer or watching TV/ playing games etc. However, reduced physical activity increases the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and if already existing, might worsen the symptoms.

In the current scenario, it is all the more important that we do all that we can to stay healthy and boost our immune system. Exercising regularly can work wonders for both adults and children and can boost both our physical as well as emotional well-being. Children especially should be made to stay active and burn off energy in order to be happy and healthy.

I know that exercise can help build my stamina, but how does it affect my mental health?

Regular exercise, especially a combination of aerobic workouts (walking, running, skipping etc.) and strength training is great for strengthening the heart, keeping weight under control, as well as improving blood circulation, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of diabetes.

In addition to this working out regularly helps us sleep better at night. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the news or if you notice heightened anxiety, physical activity can be of immense help.

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relaxes muscles and relieves stress, tension and symptoms of depression, enhances good mood through the release of endorphins. These same endorphins also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp, which is what you need when dealing with challenges such as the current pandemic.

Regular activity is an investment in your body and mind. When it becomes a habit, it helps you to look and feel better, and thus enhance your sense of self-worth and esteem. By challenging yourself through physical goals and achieving them, you will feel a sense of achievement.

When going through difficult times, there is often a tendency to escape the circumstances by turning to substance abuse. These negative behaviours will only make things worse for you. Exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, it can help you to feel more energized and boost your immune system.

I get it that exercise is important but with all the restrictions in place, how can I get started?

Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing. Start with five or ten-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you will have, so eventually you will be ready for more. The key is to commit to some sort of moderate activity on most days.

You can plan a realistic and achievable routine. Try not to compare yourself to other people. Set your own goals based on your own abilities and what you would like to achieve. Think of exercise not as another item on your to-do list, but as a priority. It will help you deal better with everything else that is going on in your life.

Notice your thoughts about your body. If you are your own worst critic, it is time to re-frame your thoughts. Be kind to yourself; nudge yourself the way you would do to a good friend.

You are more likely to stick with an activity if you enjoy it! If jogging is not your thing, you may try cardiac workouts, dancing, yoga, walking, a new sport, gardening instead.

Not having access to a gym or personal trainer is no excuse in this day and age. There are several apps available that can get you going, like WALK A MILE. Many developers have made their apps free to access during the lockdown period so that many can benefit from them. Browse or ask a friend and find one that suits you best.

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