Self Care Series Part 3: Exercise
By Rachel Parodneck LMSW
As far as self-care goes, this one might be self-explanatory. Exercise benefits our body and helps control weight, but did you know there are a host of other benefits to exercise? It can also help prevent diseases, improve mood, boost energy, promote better sleep, and can even put the spark back into your sex life! In terms of mental health, regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more, (Mayo Clinic. Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity).
Exercise is often recommended by doctors because it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good, (HelpGuide, The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise).
Most evidence suggests that the choice of the kind of activity is far less important than whether to be active at all. About half of adult Americans don’t meet one of the most oft-cited guidelines, which calls for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (a fast walking pace) most days of the week — and you can accumulate that total in bouts of 10 to 15 minutes (Harvard Health Letter, Why we should exercise – and why we don’t).
So how do you get started? First of all, meet your body where it’s at. If you live a relatively sedentary lifestyle, you’re not going to be able to run a marathon or go from zero to 60 right away. Not only that, but it is very important to find exercise you enjoy as opposed to what you think will be a quick fix. Sustainability is the name of the game.
In the spirit of self-disclosure, I often hear the benefits of yoga touted as gospel. So I figured, why not try the hip hot yoga studio Y7? If you’re unfamiliar with Y7, their website says, “Y7 Studio is sweat dripping, beat bumping, candlelit yoga. All studios are heated to 80-90 degrees using state-of-the-art infrared technology, which helps create a detoxifying sweat that stimulates blood circulation and increases flexibility.”
Sounds great, no? For me, not so much. It translated to 90 minutes of brutal hot yoga, slipping all over the mat, crammed into a small studio full of other sweaty bodies with hip hop music blaring in near darkness. Some may enjoy this type of exercise, but I quickly realized that it was an experience I would rather not repeat.
Instead, I have found that I prefer long walks along the water in downtown Manhattan or walks on the beach, with friends or alone, listening to my favorite songs. Cardio machines work great for me too. I can pound it out on the stair stepper I recently bought from the comfort of my home, while watching whatever I want on Netflix. Those are the types of exercise I can continue and actually enjoy.
So find what works for you and reap those benefits of exercise, both physical and mental. You’ll be glad you did!
Harvard Health Letter. (August 26, 2019). Why we should exercise – and why we don’t. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/why-we-should-exercise-and-why-we-dont
Robinson, Segal & Smith. (Last updated: June 2019). HelpGuide. The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm
Mayo Clinic Staff, (undated). Mayoclinic.org. Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389
Y7. We Flow Hard. Retrieved from: https://www.y7-studio.com/