BY Tim Hoopmann
I have spent many years taking care of my mental health with regular exercise. It’s a vital part of my every day and has a profound positive effect on my mental health and general wellbeing.
There are many ways that exercise positively influences your mental health:
- It promotes the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain, like endorphins and serotonin.
- It helps you sleep better so you rest fully at night and feel more energised during the day.
- It gives you a sense of accomplishment as your fitness improves and you start achieving your goals.
- Exercise is often a shared activity with others, so you get the added benefits of social connection.
To reap these benefits, I generally like to exercise at least five times a week. I am a morning person and enjoy my exercise at the start of the day. I like to either swim, run, paddle board, hike, or cycle. This gives me a range of different exercises and I tend to mix it up to provide variety. Each of us is different so find the exercise you enjoy and the time of the day that best suits. It is important to remember that while more exercise is better than less — any exercise is better than no exercise.
Often the greatest challenge is getting started. If you’re waiting for motivation to arrive at your doorstep before you start exercising, you might be waiting a long time. The key to motivation is that it comes after you act. By starting small and experiencing some benefits, you give motivation a chance as you build up your momentum.
Here are six tips for starting an exercise routine from scratch.
- Find your reason — you are more likely to stick with exercises if it’s linked to something you really value in life. Ask yourself, “why will exercise make my life better in a meaningful way?”
- Start small — try doing a little exercise each couple of days. Then slowly increase too daily. If you’re stuck, just walking around your local park is a great start.
- Make it part of your routine — the more decisions you must make about when to exercise, the closer you’ll come to deciding not to. Set a time each day for exercise and stick to that scheduled time.
- Do something you enjoy — exercise doesn’t have to be serious. Find an activity you enjoy and you’re more likely to keep doing it.
- Set goals and monitor progress — it’s very rewarding to track your progress towards a specific goal. It makes every exercise session feel purposeful.
- Make a commitment to others — you’re less likely to opt out if you have a friend or team relying on you to be there.
- Most importantly, be kind to yourself if you haven’t exercised for a while. Gently ease into your exercise routine and build on your base. Treat each day as a fresh start and enjoy the journey. Over time monitor how you are feeling and the positive impact it is having on your mental health and wellbeing.