Regular physical activity is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your physical and mental health. Yet most of us are missing out on these benefits! According to the U.S. CDC, 1 in 4 adults don’t engage in any physical activity at all, and 60% of U.S. adults don’t hit the recommended amount of daily and weekly exercise needed for optimal health. Yet exercise for self-care is essential, and plays a key role in reducing disease risks, improving your mood, and more.
Editor’s note: This is part 2 of our 7-part series covering the 7 pillars of self-care. You can read more about the article series in our introductory blog post. The previous pillar discussed the importance of mental health and mental wellness.
Why Exercise For Self-Care Matters
Exercise has long been known to have numerous health benefits. From improving physical fitness to boosting mental well-being, exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits that regular exercise can provide for both your body and mind.
Physical Benefits of Exercise
Regular physical activity has been linked to numerous physical health benefits.
Common benefits include improved cardiovascular health, lowered risk of disease, improved respiratory health, strengthened bones and muscles, and improved balance and coordination.
Additionally, regular exercise can help individuals maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. In fact, exercise has even been shown to improve longevity!
Mental Benefits of Exercise
In addition to its physical benefits, regular exercise can also improve mental health in various ways.
“Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function,” explains a report published recently in the Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. “Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.”
Additional studies have found that regular physical activity can reduce stress levels, increase energy levels, improve moods, enhance cognitive functioning, and even reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression. Research even suggests that exercise may even help protect against age-related mental decline by improving memory and concentration skills.
The evidence is clear: exercise for self-care offers numerous advantages for both physical and mental health. Whether you are just starting out or are looking to up your current workout routine, any amount of moderate-intensity activity will bring about positive changes in your life. With its tremendous potential for improving both body and mind alike, there is no reason not to incorporate some form of physical activity into your daily routine. But how can you get started, especially if you’re new to exercise or finding it hard to stay motivated to work out?
Easy Ways to Get Started With Exercise For Self-Care
Many people — especially those who are new to working out — feel overwhelmed or unmotivated when they try to start a new exercise routine. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to make the process easier.
Set Small Goals and Celebrate Achievements
When you’re just starting out, it’s important to set smaller goals that are achievable.
Starting off with unrealistic expectations can be discouraging and lead to burnout quickly.
A great way to stay motivated is by celebrating your successes as you reach each milestone on your fitness journey.
This could mean something as small as taking a few minutes for yourself after a workout or treating yourself to something special for reaching a certain goal or milestone (e.g., going to the gym for three days a week for a full month).
Find an Exercise Routine You Enjoy
When you find an exercise routine that you enjoy doing, it makes it much easier to stay motivated and committed for the long term. For example, if you find the gym intimidating or too monotonous, think outside the gym! An evening run in nature can be incredibly motivating, and being in nature has been shown to boost your mental health. Other ideas include:
- Exercising with a workout buddy
- Joining a fun fitness class, such as a dance workout class
- Incorporating sports and other physical activities you enjoy, such as hiking, swimming, or playing a team game
If you find something that you look forward to doing most days of the week, then it will become a habit before you know it!
Switch Up Your Routine Regularly
If your routine starts feeling stale or boring, then don’t be afraid to switch things up! Adding variety helps keep things interesting and prevents burnout from happening too quickly. It also helps keep your body challenged in different ways so that progress can continue at a steady pace without any plateaus along the way.