By Bob Livingstone
How many times have you started an exercise program only to lose motivation in a short period of time? I bet that this happens to millions of people around the world and you are tired of being part of that demographic. You may lose motivation because you don’t notice quick results, you feel too exhausted to work out, your schedule overwhelms you and that is an obstacle to making time to exercise. You may be guilty of doing too much/too soon. You may feel that you don’t deserve to obtain the many and wonderful benefits of exercise that I’ll mention next. I will give you some concrete tools to stick to an exercise program.
The benefits of exercise are: improves your physical appearance, decreases depression, alleviates anxiety, is a great means of weight control, helps you think clearer, increases confidence and self-esteem, increases energy level, improves your sex life, improves chronic health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, back pain and asthma. Exercise can help control addiction, sharpen memory and prevent cognitive (thinking brain function) decline.
According to research, exercise works as well or better for depression than the SSRI drugs(Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa) without the nasty side effects which include sexual dysfunction, suicidal thinking and lethargy to name a few.
A recent study found that not only will exercise decrease anxiety for those in a state of working out; those who do exercise seem to lower their anxiety levels quicker than sedentary folks when both groups are at rest.
Any amount of exercise will help you, but if you work out regularly, your life can be transformed from feeling stuck and numb to feeling excited about being alive.
How to be a Consistent Exerciser
1. Set a weekly goal of how many days you will exercise each week. What sport will you participate in? How long will each workout be? What time of day will you exercise? These tasks may seem trite and simplistic, but perhaps this is the most important tool that you need to incorporate. If you have a structure to follow, you have a good chance at succeeding. If you don’t have a plan, you probably won’t workout in a consistent manner.
2. Start out slow and don’t try to do too much at first. If you have been sedentary for a long time, set a very modest goal-for example walking for 10 minutes 3 days per week for the first week and then adding another 5 minutes and another day the next week until you are walking an hour 5 days per week. One of the biggest reasons for stopping exercise is starting out too hard, too fast and too long. Every Jan. 1st, I see many adults in their new workout suits running around Lake Merced in San Francisco where I live. Their new year’s resolution is to begin working out in order to improve their health. Instead of beginning at a slow pace and low mileage, they run at a fast pace and for 4 to 5 miles. They are so worn out the next day that they can barely get out of bed. This physical pain discourages them from exercising again until next Jan. 1. This accelerated way of exercising will lead to very sore muscles at best and injury at worst. If you haven’t had a physical for a while, make an appointment with your physician and make sure she gives you the OK to exercise.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this article shortly…..
– Bob Livingstone is the author the critically acclaimed Unchain the Pain: How to be Your Own Therapist, Norlights Press 2011, The Body Mind Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise, Pegasus Books, 2007 and Redemption of the Shattered: A Teenager’s Healing Journey through Sandtray Therapy, Booklocker 2002. He is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker in private practice in The San Francisco Bay Area and has nearly twenty five years experience working with adults, adolescents and children.