We all know how hard it can be to motivate ourselves to get up and move our bodies. Life can be incredibly tiring and stressful. Even if you’re an upbeat and positive person, getting in regular exercise seems hard to justify when there’s just so much else going on in your life.
I absolutely understand but I also recognise what a HUGE difference regular exercise can have on the body and mind. Even if you don’t feel like exercise is your thing, even if you were picked last in PE and even if you feel incredibly unfit, it will still be feasible to find an exercise that works for you.
It can really help to find the right kind of motivation to do exercise. So, to ramp up your drive to build an exercise habit (and making it a habit is the best way to do it), we are going to give you a little bit of information about how it helps you.
What Regular Exercise can Do For You:
(Always speak to your professional medical health advisor about any issues before exercising.)
Regular Exercise Can Help Prevent and Treat Mental Health Problems
Mental health issues have very much come into the spotlight in recent years. More and more people are sharing their experiences and realising that they too are suffering from a mental health issue like depression or anxiety. These painful problems can also be highly debilitating and it can feel like such a struggle to find a way out of them.
There is hope though. Many studies have shown that keeping physically active can help treat depression and anxiety. Exercise helps increase serotonin in the body which can help balance the mood (it’s known as the ‘feel-good’ chemical in the body) and is actually the target of a lot of anti-depressants.
Exercise Helps Improve Sleep
Not only does exercise help you fall asleep faster but it also improves how well you sleep overall, according to John Hopkins Center for Sleep. Evidently, the amount of ‘moderate aerobic exercise’ you get can improve the amount of slow-wave sleep you get (the good stuff!).
It’s worth noting that exercising too close to bedtime can keep you awake because it raises endorphins which can make you feel more energised and it can also increase your temperature, which needs to go down before you’re ready to get sleepy.
Exercise Can Help Improve Immune Function
A study by David C. Nieman and Bente K. Pedersen has shown that the immune system is greatly influenced by exercise. Moderate exercise helps support the immune system in working effectively and can help protect the body from upper respiratory tract infections amongst other things.
This study also shows that regular exercise has a general anti-inflammatory effect on the body and adults with increased physical activity have decreased levels of inflammatory markers. So, this means that exercise can help protect the body from illness and pain which are both affected by inflammation within the body itself.
Exercise Can Help Create New Brain Cells
Exercise helps prompt a process called neurogenesis, which is the brain’s process of creating new neurons. In fact, exercise has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus in humans. This is the area of the brain that helps us learn and remember information.
Exercise has actually been shown to actually improve memory and learning. The size of the hippocampus reduces by 1-2% each year in older adults. A year of aerobic exercise was able to improve the size of the hippocampus by 2% and ergo, offsetting the age-related decline.
Exercise Helps to Regulate Blood Sugar
Exercise can actually help to reduce your blood sugar up to a day after you’ve worked out. Exercise raises insulin sensitivity. This means that your muscles are more effective at using any insulin to absorb glucose after you have worked out. This happens in the short term when you have just exercised but it can also help improve levels overall if you exercise regularly.
Exercise can also help to regulate your blood pressure which helps reduce the risk of diabetes complications amongst other things.
If I’ve Not Exercised Before, What Exercises Should I Try?
Obviously, you don’t want to jump into a high-intensity workout routine if you’ve never really done much exercise but that’s okay. There are plenty of different exercises for you to try:
- Pilates: Low impact core work and full body stretching and muscle work.
- Yoga: Full body stretching with a focus on mental wellbeing.
- Balletcise: Gentle ballet-focused exercise for adults
- Tai-Chi: A focus on flowing movements and deep breathing.
- Walking: Walking at a reasonable pace can be a wonderful easy to access exercise.
- Swimming: If you enjoy the water, swimming is perfect if you want a low-impact full body workout.
- Zumba: A fun, dance-focused workout!
- Gardening: Gardening is a healthy and therapeutic way to move your body.
- House-Cleaning: Stay on top of your chores and keep moving at the same time!
Do I Need to Eat Healthy to Exercise?
We obviously cannot force you to do anything you don’t want to do! That being said, a healthy, balanced diet (yes you can still have some choccy!), can very much improve the way your body and mind feel. It doesn’t have to be complicated either: a healthy breakfast can be as easy as putting a smoothie together in a minute or two. Lunch can be a big mixed salad, with protein, vegetables and carbs (as easy as throwing some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado/tuna/chicken/quinoa in a bowl with some vinaigrette) and dinner can be as simple as a protein source (fish/chicken/tofu) with a side of vegetables/rice and a small glass of wine if you fancy it. If you find that you don’t have time to cook after a long day at work, a slow cooker can become your best friend. Just set it off in the morning and a tasty dinner will be waiting for you when you get home!
Exercise can be as accessible, fun and beneficial as you’d like it and need it to be. It doesn’t have to have the same military precision as the PE classes of your youth. I take pride in teaching enjoyable, friendly and accessible classes, all of which will help improve your physical and mental wellbeing.