If you chose to exercise based on the reasons shown on the front cover of fitness magazines, you may think the only reason to get moving is so you can “look good” in a bathing suit. I’m a little ashamed to admit that growing up, I subscribed to this belief. The emotional and physical benefits of regular exercise (and how closely emotional and physical health are connected) has been a hard lesson and something I continue to learn from and experience.
The benefits of regular exercise are endless: exercise helps control weight, improves mood, helps manage anxiety and depression, combats health conditions and diseases, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, increases your chances of living longer and healthier and helps prevent osteoporosis (Mayo Clinic/Harvard School of Public Health). We’ve all been told that incorporating exercise in to our days can help us to reap these benefits, yet that is easier said than done. Just like it can be challenging to cook and consume healthy meals when we’re busy or experiencing stress, it can be just as hard, if not harder, to incorporate exercise in to our days when we’re experiencing similar circumstances or feelings. Busy lives and stress make us tired, and it can feel like exercise requires energy we don’t have.
So, now we might know the benefits of exercise and we definitely understand the the challenges of integrating it in to our lives. Where do we go from here? The good news is that you do not need to spend too much time exercising in order to experience the benefits. Some studies have shown that just 1-2 hours of brisk walking per week can decrease your risk of disease. Listed below are two suggestions for making exercise a part of your life.
If you’re not currently active, start by taking a stroll for 20-25 minutes, three times per week. Getting out your door can be the hardest part! If you’re looking for motivation, think of a place that makes you feel happy or calm and choose to walk there. Try parking further away from your destination or getting off the bus a few stops early. If you are looking for company, ask a loved one to join you! Walking and talking is good for your heart in more ways than one. If you’re trying to increase your pace, use the “talk test.” If you can put together a five to six word sentence, you’re in the aerobic zone. If this feels too hard, slow down a little!
Lifting weights (or strength training) can seem overwhelming. One might think immediately of muscly, young men in front of a gym mirror and decide it’s not for them. If you feel like this, I invite you to put those thoughts to the side for a moment. Strength training has profound benefits including reducing the signs and symptoms of arthritis, chronic disease and osteoporosis.
If reading this has sparked an interest in weight lifting, consult your doctor first to make sure you are creating a routine that is safe for you. After that, book an appointment at a local community centre weight room! Most community centres offer free consultations and will help you get started with a routine either at the gym or at home.
What are some ways that you incorporate regular exercise in to your life? We’d love to hear from you!
Words by Cassandra Van Dyck