I have a love-hate relationship with exercise.
When I exercise I feel good. I feel strong. And it makes me feel like I could achieve anything.
But when I’m sitting on the couch, wrapped up in my throw blanket eating chips and chocolate, I tell myself other stories.
“I could just sit on this couch forever and no one will see the fat forming around my thighs, so one more bar of chocolate won’t hurt…”
The thing is, exercise does more for us than just keeping our bodies healthy.
Exercise is key for our mental wellbeing.
How does exercise help the mind?
Exercise does a WHOLE lot of things that supports our mental health and makes us feel better. Just to name a few*, exercise can:
- Improve resilience and coping ability
- Increase energy levels
- Improve self-esteem
- Reduce levels of chemicals in the brain that lower mood, and increase the levels of chemicals that improve mood
- Improve sleep
Further to these, exercise can also be an outlet for releasing anger and frustration (sometimes we may not even realise we’re holding anger or tension in our bodies), and doing exercise creates a great distraction from negative or stressful thoughts.
A healthy body also means a healthy mind, because naturally, when we’re unwell it makes us feel down. The reverse is true as well - those with mental health issues have a higher risk of some chronic physical conditions* - so physical and mental health work very closely together.
But I’m in isolation right now...
Not to fret. There are so many different ways we can exercise from home, and lots of methods of finding motivation to do exercise!
If you find yourself making excuses for why you shouldn’t exercise, give these a go:
If I'm stuck in iso then no one is going to see me anyway…
Maybe that’s right for the time being. But what about looking good just for yourself? If looking good is your main motivator for exercise, think about how exercise can improve your self-esteem. Cause you know what? Confidence is sexy! And when you feel good within yourself, it really shines through.
- Skipping is a great exercise option to get the whole body working, and also a good excuse to get out in the backyard! You don’t have to skip fast to skip well - just focus on your breathing and go at your own pace.
- Use household items as weights. Make it fun. Share photos or video of you lifting bags of flour, a basket full of freshly washed clothes, or even some pots and pans.
- If you have stairs, use them! Do your steps to the beat of your favourite music, and sing along while you’re at it. If you only have two or three steps (e.g. out the back door or on a porch) you can go up and down while facing the same direction (left foot up, right foot up, left foot down, right foot down). Make sure to hold onto the rail if you’re struggling with balance.
I don’t have anyone to exercise with…
I don’t know about you, but when I add a social aspect to exercise, it doesn’t really feel like a chore anymore. It becomes fun! But being stuck in isolation doesn’t mean you can’t exercise with others.
- Do exercise on a video call! Choose a friend or family member to lead an indoor workout and set up a camera on the coffee table, or use something like Facebook Messenger to video call while you’re out on a walk separately (safety first though - watch where you’re walking!).
- Find live, online exercise classes for a whole range of things including yoga, sports and training. Check out this list.
- Got an Apple Watch? If you do, and you have friends or family who do too, you can motivate one another by sharing progress or even starting a seven day challenge with them! Check out the Apple Store for more.
I don’t have time (or equipment) to exercise…
For parents at home with their children, it can be hard to find time for yourself, let alone time to exercise… But what you can do is incorporate exercise into your other regular routines.
- Do squats as you fold the clothes. Or some wall push-ups as you wait for the microwave. Or dance as you’re vacuuming. The options are limitless if you can integrate physical activity into your everyday chores.
- There are heaps of apps you can download with equipment-free exercise routines. And there’s options to choose quick routines as well! I’ve been enjoying 3, 7 and 12 minute workouts on this female fitness app and there’s a whole range of other exercise apps by the same developer which I’ve found handy!
Whichever way you can incorporate exercise into your weekly routine will be beneficial for your mind and body. And beneficial for others, too.
When we’re happy, that positivity spreads quickly, and you might even motivate others to start exercising as well.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and remember that self care is the bees knees.
Liz, Communications Coordinator
*Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government