What’s one of the top 10 ways to reduce stress? Exercise.
One of the top 10 ways to relieve anxiety? Exercise.
Promote vitality? Exercise.
Relieve depression? Build self-esteem? Improve self-image and confidence? Increase stamina, strength, flexibility, stability and dexterity? Reduce tension? Improve mental sharpness and alertness? Strengthen immunity? Reduce health risks? Lose weight? Improve sleep?
Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.
With a list like this, one might ask if there is any aspect of human life that isn’t helped by regular exercise. Not according to physical and mental health experts. Anyone and everyone who is concerned with health and well-being agrees: physical activity is a vital component for optimum physical and emotional health. Regular exercise is the key to increasing the quality of life. Being active improves body, mind, heart and soul.
Amazing as it may seem, 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week produces far greater benefits than you’d expect out of investing a mere 60 out of 10,080 total minutes of living per week. The typical return on that less than 0.6% investment of your time yields returns far greater than you’d imagine.
Yet, a quarter of Americans get absolutely no exercise and nearly two-thirds get less than the recommended minimum of 30 minutes several times a week. Fewer than 15 percent comply with the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations for adult fitness.
If Exercise Is So Good For Us,
Why Don’t We Do It?
No Time: That’s the reason most people offer when asked why they don’t exercise. And it’s true; most of our lives are busier than ever before. But the fact is, when something is important, when we are committed, when we really want something, we find the time for it. Because time is not a scarce resource.
That’s right: time is NOT scarce. We have all the time we need for the things that matter. Our sole responsibility in each moment is to discern, using intuition and reason, what matters most right now, to focus and to follow through. According to noted psychologist, Abraham Maslow,
“If our true nature is permitted to guide our life, we grow healthy, fruitful, and happy … [Yet] ninety-eight percent of us die before we taste the nectar of our magnificence.”
If we look beneath the easy and ready excuse of time scarcity, we find more complex reasons why people won’t start or stick with even a reasonable, regular exercise routine.
Impatience: People want to get in great shape RIGHT NOW! Never mind that it took 5, 10 or 20 years to get into the shape they’re in.
Unrealistic Expectations: Looking for the “perfect body” is a guaranteed set up for failure.
Denial: Many people are in denial that they might have health problems or suffer a debilitating disease.
Intimidation: The idea of failure, looking foolish or being a beginner intimidates many people into never starting an exercise program.
Painful Memories: Humiliating and abusive past experiences or old feelings of inadequacy can fuel resistance to exercising.
Fear of Rejection: If your friends and family tend to be out-of-shape, you might fear being shunned by them if you become more fit.
Depression: Years ago when my mental and physical health were at an all-time low and my primary care physician was abusing me yet again concerning my lack of health and fitness, I SCREAMED back, “Trust me, Doc, when you’ve sunk so low that your only hope is an early death, you invest little concern over leaving a good-looking corpse.”
Physical exercise is essential to good physical and emotional health and a sense of wellbeing. If any of these reasons lay beneath the surface of your “not enough time” excuse, consider these suggestions:
- Start slowly.
- Enroll a buddy.
- Find an activity you like.
- Enjoy a fun distraction (audiobooks, TV, movies, music) while exercising.
- Go for progress, not perfection.
- Realize that it may hurt before it feels good.
- Remember healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
- Don’t give up. If you miss a day, begin again the next day.
- Be patient. Substantive, substantial change takes time.
- Congratulate yourself on your hard work and follow-through.
- Ask for help if you need it.
You don’t have to train as a triathlete for exercise to make a difference. Specialists say that short bursts of exercise can be effective, too. Regular bouts of 10 to 15 minutes of aerobic “sparks,” such as dancing, an early morning walk or a midday office stair climb, combined with a few strengthening exercises and stretching routines can have measurable physical, mental and emotional impact.
Though you may not lose a lot of weight or become ready to compete in 10K races with these minimum activity levels, you can improve your overall health and start feeling more invigorated. Parking your car at the far end of the lot and walking to the mall, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, dancing through your housework—every little bit helps!
Author’s content adapted under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
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