Mental Health and Exercise

Today I read an interesting article by Wendy Suzuki which discussed the benefits of exercise and the boosts that it can give our brain. Exercise not only combats stress, it also improves our ability to focus, whilst improving our memories. Exercise also decreases our risks of developing dementia as we age. I won’t go into all the science, but the entire article is here:

A neuroscientist says there’s a powerful benefit to exercise that is rarely discussed

We all know how good we feel after we have exercised, and most of us have the best intentions. However, if you are suffering from depression, how do you start? If it takes superhuman strength just to get out of bed and function on a day-to-day basis, if you feel sluggish and exhausted all the time, how can you possibly put on your trainers and go for a run, or start lifting weights at the gym, or do all of the other things that sporty, athletic, popular people do? How can you possibly compete with them?

My answer: you’re thinking about exercise in completely the wrong way.

I was never sporty at school. In fact, I was the complete opposite. Bespectacled, clumsy and weezy, I was always picked last for any team. However, as I got older, I realised that there were some things I was quite good at, but which we didn’t spend much time doing. There was dancing, which was great, and then circuit training, which was fun. I was also quite good at cross country. When all the other girls in my class had given up, I was still there, going at my slow pace but still going, jogging around the park, not giving up.

So what is my point?

My point is that even if you don’t think that you’re good at exercising, there is going to be something that you can still do. You just have to find the thing that you love. You might be good at going for brisk walks, or yoga, or belly-dancing, or hula-hooping, or riding your bike. Anything that gets you moving and makes you breathless. A neighbour of mine lost weight simply by attaching her pedometer and making sure that she walked 10000 steps a day. If she hadn’t done her 10000 steps by the end of the day she went into her back garden and just carried on walking in the dark.

But how about if you are so unwell and so tired and your mind is so foggy that you can’t even start? Well, a small step is the first step. Just try to go in the back garden if you have one, walk around, feel the breeze on your face. When you have done that, go outside properly if you can, and just go for a walk. Your mind will be clearer and you can then think about a little exercise routine, perhaps ten minutes a day, and then you can build it up gradually to thirty minutes.

Einstein himself said that ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’. The same is true with exercise. Once you have found the exercise you love doing, go for it. Your life will definitely change for the better.

albert-einstein-picture-quote-about-fish-climbing-a-tree

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