The importance of regular physical activity
Here is a thought you may want to entertain if you feel your mind is ahead of your body. You can’t separate your mental and emotional self from your physical self. Your mind and everything in it — thoughts, emotions, memories, etc. — lives in and depends on your body. Therefore, it’s safe to say that if your body isn’t functioning well, neither is your mind. But worry not, there is a simple solution to this, and I’m sure you’re familiar with it – exercise.
Exercise in its many forms has shown to have many benefits both for your physical and mental health. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.’
It has been proven that people who regularly exercise and take care of their bodies are much better able to regulate and manage difficult emotions, moods, and thought patterns than those who don’t. That’s not to say that people who exercise don’t have their bad days. We are all human, after all. So, of course, people who exercise still fall into bad moods, worry, and get depressed. But regular exercise exerts a powerful protective effect on our mental health and emotional wellbeing, allowing us to cope better with those bad days and lift ourselves out of the darkness quicker.
One such study on, Positive Affect and Health Behaviors Across 5 Years in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease: The Heart and Soul Study, at Penn State University, carried out by researcher Nancy L Sin and her team, found that people who reported to be in a positive state of mind were those that were physically active.
So, what is it about exercise that has such a positive impact on our mental health? When we exercise, not only does the body pump more oxygen to the brain, but it also aids in releasing feel-good chemicals called endorphins and serotonin. In turn, promoting brain plasticity by increasing nerve connections, aiding in the growth of new neuronal connections, and the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory). The overall result is healthier mental health and protection against brain disease.
Still not convinced or feel you don’t have the time and energy? Below we highlight some of the core benefits of regularly exercising and a few simple ways you can begin reaping the benefits.
Benefits of regular exercise
As we’ve discovered, exercise is great for your all-round wellbeing, and when practiced regularly, brings with it both curative and preventative health benefits. So, what are these benefits, you may ask? Let’s take a quick look.
- Improves your heart health.
- Help with the management of diabetes.
- Reduces the risk of some cancers.
- It Boosts your mental health.
- It strengthens your bones and muscles.
- It helps with weight management.
- Increases chances of a longer, healthier life.
- It may help with chronic pain.
- You can enjoy better sleep.
- It helps prevent falls in old age.
- Can treat/prevent osteoporosis.
- Improve your brain function and memory.
So, as you can see, there are plenty of amazing benefits that regular exercising can bring to improve your health inside and out.
Simple exercises for your mind, body, and soul
Now that we’ve discovered the benefits of regular exercise, it’s time to put it into practice. For this, you don’t need to spend hours or do rigorous, strenuous exercise. Find whatever form of exercise you enjoy and plan to do it regularly. The first step is to get started. As – James Clear, author of the New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits once said, “Motivation often comes after starting, not before. Action produces momentum.”
According to Australian guidelines, adults are recommended to do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity daily, if not then on most days of the week. To give you a kick-start, here are a few exercises you can incorporate into your everyday life, no matter how hectic it may be.
- Go for a walk.
- Do some Yoga.
- Go for a run.
- Go cycling.
- Read to exercise the mind.
Incorporating exercise into your life can be as simple as making it a part of your daily routine. But if you’re finding it hard to get the motivation, not sure where to begin, or feel like how you are going to find the time to fit it into your hectic schedule, below are a few tips to get you started.
Tips to get started with exercising
- If you have a dog, take them for a walk in your local area.
- Break it down into shorter 15-minute sessions.
- Walk where possible instead of using the car/bus/train.
- Ask a friend/family to join you or motivate you.
- Keep the yoga mat beside your bed, so as you get out of bed it’s the first thing you do.
- Couldn’t find time in the day or for personal reasons certain movement is not possible? Then meditate. You can meditate before you go to sleep. Simple deep breathing exercises with do wonders for your mind.
Consistency is key
Many of us are guilty of beginning something new and not sticking to it. Likewise, you may have attempted to include physical activity in your daily life but failed to remain consistent. The trick here is to form a habit. Just as you naturally get up and brush your teeth in the morning, you need to wire your brain so that physical activity is also an automatic habit that you do without giving it a second thought.
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about habit stacking. According to the theory of synaptic pruning, ‘your brain prunes away connections between neurons that don’t get used and builds up connections that get used more frequently.’ For example, if you’ve been swimming consistently for years, your brain works to strengthen the connection between the relevant neurons. And the more you practice, the stronger they become. Likewise, if you begin something new but don’t practice it consistently, your brain will not work to strengthen that connection, as it allocates the energy where necessary.
James Clear refers to BJ Fogg’s simple strategy called habit stacking, which you can use to help build momentum by including physical exercise into your daily routine. The rules are simple – ‘Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit.’ For example, I will do yoga after I brush my teeth in the morning. Or I will go for a 5-minute walk every day after eating my lunch. Because you’re pairing the new habit with something you already do, building the new one should come much easier.
By practising consistency, your brain builds further networks and strengthens its connections between neurons, stopping the unused parts of your brain from dyeing away. So, go ahead and give it a go today!
Take control of your well-being
A.T. Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine, states: “Human form (matter) and function (spirit) are inseparably intertwined.”
From this statement, I gather we are not the product of our bodies, but we create and maintain our bodies. We do not only have a body, but we are a body.
If we base our life on this philosophy, we realise we are in control of our wellbeing. We can act our way into right thinking, not think our way into right action.
Now is the time to take the reins of the health of your mind, body, and soul and say hello to a healthier, happier you.
If you are looking for guidance on the best way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, our team is here to help. Feel free to call us on 02 9958 2277.