Exercise is a huge part of feeling healthy because, among other things, it’s how our body releases endorphins (the ‘happiness’ hormones). Most of us groan at the mention of the word exercise, mainly because we don’t do it. That’s right – we don’t want to do it because we don’t do it. Let me explain.
Exercise and the desire to exercise, is self-perpetuating. The more we do it, the more we want to do it. The good feeling spurs us on to do it more or do it again. I know sometimes it’s hard to imagine wanting to exercise but trust me on this – it works.
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We just need two things:
The motivation to begin.
Exercise that’s convenient.
Let’s start with the motivation:
You want to live a long time don’t you? And you also want to enjoy good health in your golden years. Studies show that a mere 30 minutes a day of exercise can add an extra 3-5 good years to your lifespan, and help prevent diseases such as bowel cancer and colon cancer which are more common in sedentary people.
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Exercise is a powerful weapon in preventing and/or treating depression - due to that ‘happiness’ hormone I was talking about.
It can help overcome things like headaches, joint stiffness, irritability– all the things we pop paracetamol or aspirin for on a daily basis.
It can also increase your lung capacity and help raise your immunity so that you are better able to fight colds and flu.
More time outdoors helps you with your vitamin D levels which makes your bones stronger and prevents osteoporosis.
What more motivation do we need?
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Exercise that’s convenient:
Number one rule if you’re just starting out – start small. Even if you think you can do more, don’t do it. If your body’s not used to it you are going to really feel it the next day, and that will most likely put you off doing it again.
If you are concerned about a health issue and not sure how exercise will affect it - consult a health practitioner. He/she will advise you which exercise is best for you and how much.
This one’s crucial - think about how you will incorporate the exercise into your daily or weekly routine.
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This is the key to keeping it up. Ask yourself the following:
If I choose to visit a gym, but the gym is not close to my home or work, will I continue to go out of my way?
If my chosen exercise costs money, can I afford to pay for it even when money is a bit tight?
Will I need to wear special clothing that I will have to buy, remember to take with me, change into and out of, wash, dry, iron?
How much time will it take? Can I only attend on certain days at set times? Will it always be convenient?
Will I be with other people that I get along with, or alone which can be a bit boring?
Will I be a part of a team and feel a sense of obligation to turn up?
Will the activity be beyond my current capabilities and make me feel clumsy? (I personally don’t have the rhythm for Zumba or Dancercise so I’d never choose those).
Is it a seasonal activity like swimming that I won’t want to do in winter?
I’m not trying to put you off exercising; I’m being realistic, because these are some of the most common reasons people give for not exercising or for quitting, so you need to think hard about what type of exercise you really want to do. Maybe you love being with others or maybe you prefer some time alone. Are you a competitive person who would love the rivalry? Would you enjoy the drive to the gym as a little extra unwinding time? Do you need the discipline of a set day and time?
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Choose the one that you know you can sustain, but don’t feel like a failure if you change your mind occasionally (mixing it up a little is good – it prevents boredom). The crucial thing is to not give up all together. Maybe plan ahead to try the gym for three months and then aqua aerobics for three, but don’t commit long-term to something you've never tried before.
For me personally, all those excuses fit, so I stick to walking because I can do it whenever I want, I like the alone time, my dog benefits as well, it’s free, it’s local, and I don’t have to wear anything special (I keep a pair of walking shoes at home and one in the car). Easy.
Find what works for you to live a longer and healthier life.