How (and Why!) to Make Fitness a Part of Your Life
While magazine covers and online ads might have you believe that an attractive body is the only reason to exercise, fitness is about more than your appearance. The main purpose of physical activity is to keep your body functioning its best so you can enjoy life to the fullest. If you’ve been putting off exercise and are seeking renewed motivation—whether by getting a fitness tracker or trying a new workout—read on to renew your commitment to an active life.
The Value of Physical Fitness
So many people have the idea that there are fit people and unfit people, as if physical fitness is an immutable character trait. In reality, fit isn’t a personality type, it’s the result of hard-won habits—and if you have a human body, it’s a habit you need. The CDC outlines these important physical benefits of exercise:
- Helps you control your weight.
- Reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke.
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and helps control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Reduces the risk of certain cancers, including colon, breast, and lung cancer.
- Strengthens bones and muscles and slows age-related bone loss.
- Reduces pain associated with arthritis.
- Maintains and improves your ability to complete daily activities.
While the most obvious effects of exercise are physical, moving your body also has a big impact on mental health. According to Shape, physical activity:
- Relieves stress and improves mood.
- Alleviates depression and anxiety.
- Boosts energy.
- Improves mental performance.
- Sharpens memory.
- Prevents cognitive decline.
- Aids recovery from addiction.
Ongoing fitness is proven to heal both the mind and body, which is especially important during addiction recovery. Over time, the endorphins the brain releases in response to exercise can become a new vice, but a healthy one that has many benefits and few negatives. Plus, exercise helps you sleep, can improve your appetite, and elevate your self-esteem. Many of these factors have also been associated with a lowered risk of suicide.
Finding the Right Kind of Exercise
There’s no one right way to work out. While some people love nothing more than busting out a few hours at the gym, others prefer to integrate physical activity with everyday life through active hobbies. The best kind of exercise for you is whatever exercise you can stick with. That said, it’s important to include a variety of physical activities. A well-rounded fitness regimen should include cardio, strength training, and flexibility and balance work; how you achieve that is up to you.
Exercises for cardio include running, biking, HIIT, swimming, jumping rope, and playing team sports. For strength training, you can try weight lifting, resistance band training, bodyweight exercises, rock climbing, and rowing. For flexibility and balance, stretching, yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are great activities.
Enhancing Your Workout Habits with Tech
In this day and age, technology makes it easier than ever to track your workouts and keep you safe, whether you’re training for a marathon or going on a solo hike. A good fitness tracker can also motivate you to stick to your workout habits long term. When shopping for a fitness tracker or smartwatch, look for one that meets your needs. Fitness trackers tend to be less expensive, while smartwatches like the Apple Watch SE are pricier with many more features.
Staying Active for Life
Starting a new exercise plan is easy; committing to it is another story. If you’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle for years, it will be difficult to drop your bad habits in favor of a more active lifestyle. However, like all new habits, exercise gets easier with time. Eventually, your workouts will become a part of the day that you look forward to.
In the meantime, promote habit-forming by exercising at the same time each day. By turning fitness into a ritual, something that’s automatic, you’re less likely to skip it. If you tend to create excuses for not exercising, make rules that enforce follow-through, like you can’t have your morning coffee until you’ve gone on a walk, or you have to scrub the bathroom if you skip your workout.
When you’re first starting, go slowly. Nothing derails a new exercise habit like an injury. Don’t overexert yourself or try to push through pain, and schedule rest days into your week. Once you’re accustomed to an exercise and understand proper form, you can increase the difficulty.
If you’re a senior, don’t neglect regular workouts. Your flexibility, mobility, muscle strength, and balance decline as you age, but physical activity can help combat these challenges. Again, the key is to stick to a variety of workouts. Start small with basic yoga moves and bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges, then upgrade to resistance bands and light dumbbells. Allow yourself enough time to recover from workouts if you’re feeling sore. And of course, before you begin a workout regimen, consult with your doctor.
No matter your age, sex, or current fitness level, exercise has the power to improve your life. Physical activity strengthens your body, calms your mind, and keeps you moving and enjoying life into the later years. Whether you’re 20 or 60, never lifted a dumbbell or an ex-gym rat, it’s never too late to make physical activity a part of your life.
Constance Ray — Recoverywell.org
For more wonderful articles about self-care and overall wellness, stop by the Ibere Mental Health blog!
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