Hi everyone, this is Nicole, owner of Mind-Body Solutions. If you would like to know more about me, please read my bio here. This article is about exercise. This is a subject that I am passionate about, not only because of its close relation to the Mind-Body connection, but because I am a big promoter of exercise as part of my therapy sessions with my clients. You will understand why by reading this article.
If you are one of those who have difficulty motivating yourself to exercise, keep reading because this article is for you. Some people find it very difficult to motivate themselves to exercise, in any way, shape, or form. I understand where you are coming from since I consider myself one of these unmotivated people. I often find myself completely amazed (and sometimes even envious) when watching those around me who can’t wait for their next workout, who can run half marathons, marathons, triathlons, and even 5 or 10km. I sincerely believe that our biggest obstacle to motivation is ourselves and our beliefs. Most people I see in therapy think that motivation will come to them on its own. This is a false conception or belief. If you wait for motivation to come to you, you will probably waste most of your life waiting. Motivation comes from within and only you can create it. The only way to create it is to really push yourself to exercise when you first start a program and keep at it. Your motivation will eventually increase.
Most people only become motivated once they start to see results. This is strongly related to the fact that people who are unmotivated towards exercise need immediate gratification. This also applies to other types of changes to your lifestyle, like following a diet or other healthy habits. You often need to wait a few weeks, even months before you can actually see results, such as losing weight or obtaining more muscle tone. This is the reason why you need to reframe your thoughts about exercise. You need to focus on the results that are the most immediate, such as the endorphins (the feel good hormones that are released during exercise), the boost of energy you will get to finish your day, and simply feeling good about yourself in general.
It is easier to motivate yourself to exercise if you choose a type of exercise that you enjoy doing. For some, it can be in a group setting like joining a Zumba class or a dance class, yoga class, or your local gym. For others, it can be hiking or doing exercise outdoors. For those who want to exercise in the comfort of their own home, if that’s what it takes, go for it. It is important to do what feels the most comfortable and natural for you. Do not force yourself or try to enjoy something you don’t; simply accept that you may not like or enjoy all types of exercises. Here are some interesting options for those who are running out of ideas: walking in the woods (for winter: snowshoeing in the woods), walking on the beach, doing yoga on the beach, mindful walking, and walking with friends. Notice how a lot of these recommendations are outdoors. This is because recent studies indicate that walking outdoors is more beneficial than walking indoors. In addition to this, walking in nature is more beneficial than walking in the city.
So, how do you start exercising?
A trick that usually works well to increase motivation is to start slow, but really give yourself a good start. If you start slow and gradually build up to your goals, it will help you to feel more fulfilled, since you’re meeting all these smaller goals on your way to the bigger ones. For example, start by exercising 15-20 minutes once or twice a week and gradually build up to 45 minutes to an hour 4-6 times a week. For those who have a busy schedule, you can do shorter workouts or perhaps work out less frequently. Keep in mind that Health Canada recommends 150 minutes a week no matter how this is spread out (75 min. workouts twice a week, 50 min. workouts three times a week, 30 min. workouts five times a week, etc.).
It is also important to consider that some types of exercise are not meant for everyone, or every body type. Some people, or body types are not meant to run, swim, do cycling, dance, etc. For example, if you have back or knee problems, I don’t recommend running as your exercise of choice. On a similar note, don’t attempt en-pointe ballet if you have problems with your feet or toes. If you have chronic pain or other medical issues, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist before attempting any type of exercise. You can also try consulting a physiotherapist or kinesiologist if you want a more personalized exercise program that is adapted to your condition and needs. For those with fibromyalgia, it is recommended to do exercise to decrease the chronic pain, but exercises of lower intensity are recommended. This includes, light yoga, light stretching, Taï chi, walking, and swimming.
What else can exercising do?
If the above tips and tricks are not enough to motivate you, maybe this will help. For one, there are numerous physical benefits that exercise can provide to you: lower cholesterol levels (LDL- the bad one), increases in HDL (the good cholesterol) and lower blood pressure (arterial hypertension). It can also reduce the risk of heart conditions, reduce the risk of diabetes (type 2), increase blood circulation and release brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps with brain cell development. It’s good for your muscles and bones, it promotes healthy skin, and helps you lose weight.
Notice how weight loss is the last one on the list because as we mentioned- it doesn’t help to motivate you to exercise since you don’t see the weight loss effect right away. It also isn’t the one and only reason to exercise, having a healthy body is way more important than having a thin one!
There are also ways exercise can benefit your mental health: it reduces anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as chronic pain by releasing endorphins (natural morphine your body produces) and serotonin (‘happy hormone’). It helps with sleep, increases your energy levels, increases blood flow to the brain, which helps increase concentration and memory, increases self-esteem, and can even increase your resilience.
You can see that there are many different ways that exercising can benefit you. If you have any more questions, feel free to reach out to us! We also offer one-on-one yoga therapy sessions if you would like to start exploring the connection between your mind and body, as well as massage therapy in case your next workout makes you a little sore! Happy exercising!