Isn’t it funny how everyone races back to the gym in January and attendance rates skyrocket? Everyone overindulged during the holidays, and they feel lumpy, bumpy, and a little bit fluffy!
When they get the nerve to step on the scale, the number confirms the price tag for eating of all those cakes, cookies and pies. And then it’s crunch time. Literally.
It’s great to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle by starting an exercise program at the beginning of the new year, but the problem is most people don’t make exercise a consistent part of their daily routine over time..
I am one of those people. I’ll admit it. When I quit going to the gym because the class times didn’t jibe with my writing schedule, my activity level plummeted.
I kept promising myself that I would stick to 10,000 steps at least five days a week, but there was always something more important to do. I paid the price for not taking my exercise routine seriously. My weight inched up until it reached the highest number I have ever seen on the scale.
The number on the scale galvanized me, and now I am refocusing my energy on exercise and diet, so I can lose the weight and reset my unhealthy relationship with food.
Trying to lose weight is a legitimate reason to start an exercise program, but what if I told you that was only the tip of the iceberg of exercise’s benefits?
Self-care is a term on the tips of everyone’s tongues these days. How many times have you repeated the self-care mantra: “You can’t pour out of an empty cup?”
Too many times, right? Yes, me too.
And yet, the catchphrase rings true.
Click here to read my post about the self-care habits that help me maintain my balance. You will note that exercise is on that list. And although it is not at the top of the list, it probably should be because it checks off so many boxes on my self-care checklist.
Here are five reasons to bump exercise to the top of your self-care routine.
1. Exercise has major health benefits.
We have long heard about the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise. It increases your good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering the bad one (LDL).
Weight-bearing exercise stimulates muscle growth and lowers your chances of developing osteoporosis.
Regular exercise helps decrease your chance of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer.
Incorporating consistent exercise into your life in your youth helps promote longevity and cognitive health as you age.
2. Exercise is a powerful mood stabilizer.
Never underestimate the power of endorphins! The endorphins released during exercise help stabilize your mood, improve your memory, and raise your self-esteem while lowering your stress level and increasing your energy.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a workout fanatic to reap the mental health benefits of exercise. Even modest exercise done consistently is beneficial.
Start at five minutes of activity a day and build from there. As your workouts grow in length and intensity, so will your feelings of well-being.
3. Exercise is therapeutic.
Have you ever had one of those mornings when nothing goes right? Your kids forgot to do their homework, and you and your husband argued about everything and nothing. You just about talked yourself out of going to the gym, but you reluctantly braved the traffic, so you wouldn’t miss your favorite spin class.
At the beginning of the workout, you were still rehashing your “Calgon, take me away” morning. But about 10 minutes into your workout, something miraculous happened. You totally forgot what you were so upset about.
Does that sound familiar to you?
Exercise does an effective job of rebooting your brain when it is stretched too thin and overwhelmed. A great workout takes you outside of yourself as you focus on pushing the limits of your endurance.
The Mayo Clinic calls it “meditation in motion.” That is an apt description.
4. Exercise promotes healthy sleep patterns.
Exercise acts like a stressor on the body, so the body compensates by increasing the depth and quality of your sleep. Studies show that when someone who is normally sedentary increases their activity level, it helps alleviate insomnia.
Exercise causes your stress hormones to drop, and just 30 minutes of exercise a day increases your REM sleep up to 65 percent.
Just be sure you don’t time your workout too close to bedtime. That burst of energy you feel after a great workout may actually inhibit your sleep if you do it too close to lights out.
5. Exercise and a healthy diet promote weight loss.
Everyone knows you must eat less and move more to lose weight. The problem with changing only your calorie intake is that your metabolism slows down when your body notices you are feeding it less.
But if you add exercise to the mix, it increases your metabolic rate and compensates for the drop caused by decreased caloric intake. Exercise also regulates blood sugar levels which helps prevent binges when your blood sugar crashes throughout the day.
When you combine aerobic exercise with weight training, it helps boost fat loss and increases muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn. It’s a win-win proposition.
A Necessity, Not a Choice
When you live with mental illness, self-care is not a choice. It is a necessity.
We live in a society where we are like hamsters running on a wheel—expending a lot of energy and getting nowhere. We are so caught up in multitasking and completing our to-do lists that we push self-care down to the end of the list until it is forgotten, or a medical or mental health crisis reminds us we are the most important item on that list.
With so much to do and so little time, how can we improve our self-care routine practically? How can we do less but reap more benefits?
In a word…Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Okay, I know that is three words, but you get my drift.
Never underestimate exercise’s ability to balance just about anything! If you only have time to focus on one self-care habit, you should bump exercise to the top of the list.
What are some creative ways to find time to incorporate exercise into your self-care routine? Share your response in the comments.