We have all heard about how good exercising is for your mind, body, and soul. In fact, studies are starting to strongly suggest that exercise is more effective in treating depressive disorders than medication is in many patients. Exercising for health is also important for a healthy mind.
Why Exercise is Important for Mental Health?
Exercise is always top of the list as we think about our plans for mental health strategies and coping tools. I have been working with Dr. Kertay at Axiom in thinking about how we incorporate more of the framework for Mental Health First Aid into everything we do. I always call it “my list.” If I feel off or like stress levels are increasing, I go back to my list. Have I done all of the things that help me stay healthy, including exercise, sleep, nutrition, and reading a good book?
One thing that has been really interesting to me is how to exercise and train your body when you are no longer an athlete or playing a sport. I was a college softball player and struggled with how to continue exercising after college without a coach. It took me many years to learn how to achieve fitness and health goals outside the context of a sport.
Here are some things I was surprised to know over the last few years of transitioning to exercise for health!
Exercising for Health – 8 Things I Learned
1. Laundry is no joke!
If you work out most days or just go for a long walk, you will be doing more laundry than you expected. Invest in comfortable and cute workout clothes that will last through all of these laundry cycles. You don’t need a lot of pieces but find ones that are durable.
2. Prioritizing health is a luxury but doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
I can imagine if you are working a couple of jobs and struggling to make ends meet, exercising might not be on your priority list. However, you can incorporate exercise that doesn’t cost a thing but time if you can. Bodyweight exercises like squats, taking a walk or a hike, or playing with your kids are all ways to move your body for free. Even if you can afford gyms and coaches, these movements should still be incorporated into your life because they can be fun!
3. You will always be sore!
I don’t care if you are an elite athlete or someone starting out for the first time. You will continue to be sore if you move your body. Soreness should not be a real pain, and sometimes it takes some lessons to learn this difference. What becomes really important is prioritizing recovery. Recovery for me is choosing not to exercise on some days and to rest, sleep, enjoy a hot bath, and take a nice slow walk. Find the ways you like to recover!
4. Don’t underestimate hydration!
Treat your body like a science experiment. Pay attention to how you feel after you sweat. Depending on the level of strenuous activity, you might need a few electrolytes or additional sodium.
5. Even if you were an athlete, don’t avoid learning new things!
I was a softball player in part because I told myself I wasn’t a runner. After having my first daughter at 31, I decided to train for a marathon after never running more than a couple of miles before! I took it very slow and trained well. I have heard that I am not unique; a lot of distance runners and cyclists are similar. People find that they can participate in these endeavors in their 30s and 40s, and there are lots of moms/women trying endurance sports for the first time. It’s a lot of fun. (Don’t worry if it’s not your thing, there are a lot of other ways to exercise!)
6. Tracking your progress is just as important for general health as it is for athletes.
Knowing your goals, understanding how to achieve your goals, and tracking progress becomes critical to continue your health journey.
7. Coaches can make all the difference!
After no longer being an athlete, I learned that I needed to find my coaches. Sometimes finding a coach seems daunting or very expensive. However, there are so many more resources now via online content that are reasonably priced and accessible. If you can afford in-person training or coaching, make it a priority! The way I think about it, paying for a coach is cheaper than chronic illness. Having a coach helps keep you moving forward on your health path, track your progress and achieve your goals.
8. Treat your journey like a science experiment!
Try different foods, sleep patterns, exercises, and recovery plans to see what works best for you. In his book Unbreakable Runner, Brian Mackenzie once said that you should not just accept things at face value but challenge beliefs and use your body as an experiment.
Hopefully, you found a few of these tips helpful! Enjoy your time trying new things, and reach out with any ideas or lessons you have as well!
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Dara Wheeler is Axiom Medical’s, Chief Marketing Officer. As a passionate leader, she oversees Axiom’s product innovations and works closely with the marketing team to develop continuous organizational and market growth strategies.