It is safe to say that most people recognise the physical benefits of getting active and moving this machine we call a 'body'. Watch TV for more than 30 seconds and you're bound to see an ad for a weight loss reality show or an awareness campaign such as 'swap it'. The message is simple: get up, get active and you'll help prevent health problems such as type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, and some cancers. Simple, yes, and a train of thought that has been around since at least the early Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates, who said "If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health".
With so much research over the past few decades supporting the idea that a physically active lifestyle is crucial in maintaining and improving a person's physical health, it begs the question: what about your psychological health? Can physical activity help change your mood and thoughts?
As Yasmina Nasstasia, Professor Amanda Baker, Professor Robin Callister and Dr Sean Halpin state in their article entitled 'Born to run, workout, or maybe try Zumba: Managing depression with exercise' (2012), "the jury is back and ... the consensus is that exercise can improve psychological health".
What does this mean for you? Firstly, it goes without saying that before you embark on any physical activity (especially if you have any health concerns) it is recommended that you check-in with a physician to get the all-clear. Once you've got the 'tick' from your GP, you are ready to rock and roll. Secondly, it means that everybody can start doing something right now to make a change to the way they feel.
"So what do I do?" Great question. For this to be effective, this is the ONE thing to follow:
Think about how much time you have. Not much time? No worries - get moving with more effort for less time (aim for 20 mins or more). Lots of time? Then you can reduce the intensity but need to go for longer.
Be realistic. Set small goals that are achievable and build over time. Also, plan how you are going to get back on track after a lapse into your old ways (it's bound to happen, so make space for it rather than run away from it).
Have fun. Find something that you enjoy doing. Who wants to keep slogging away at something that they don't enjoy? Walk your dog, kick a soccer ball, challenge a friend to see who can walk the most steps in a day (you can buy a cheap pedometer that measures this). Do what I did - join a triathlon club! With 3 sports in 1 there is always something different to do.
Prepare for barriers. Take the time to think about what might stand in your way to starting your new activity, and rather than focusing on why you can't do it think of ways you can get around this to do it.
Then you are off. Give it time; this is not a one-hit wonder and it will take a while to get the benefits. Which is great news - all the more time to have fun doing something new. It is also handy to look at it as a new way of life, not a fad. Something that you look forward to doing each day. If nothing else, think of all the extra ice-cream you can eat afterwards... that's how it works, right?
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