If you started to do exercise in lockdown, here are three good ‘whys’ for sticking at it.
n the UK the weather has changed today, and lockdown could be coming to an end… Amongst other things this beginning, the beginning of lockdown five weeks ago started with a mini exercise boom. As Churchill said: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Exercise is all the rage
New runners trying to hide their pain as they jogged around the park in too many clothes, and ‘Instagrammers’ frantically posting their 10-minute morning workouts trying to get heard above the noise. I don’t have the stats and I accept that I could be seeing through this via my ‘exerciser’s filter’, but for now I’m assuming I’m right on this. As a former personal trainer, seeing this unbound, first-flush of enthusiasm was familiar.
The exercise high
For the first block of four to six weeks, my clients were my best PR, turning up to sessions full of the joys of Spring, loving exercise, loving me, wanting to do more… but then the novelty would wear off. By week seven the energy shifted, and my shouts of encouragement would be greeted with grunts and grimaces through gritted teeth. They hated me — but with some firm but fair ‘keep at it’ chats it would only be temporary. Keeping them interested was key and this is when my skills were most valuable. It’s what they paid me for.
The thing to remind them of was their why — ‘to get through the stress of that divorce’; ‘so work isn’t all I do’; ‘to get in shape for that big do/holiday’; ‘to just feel better about myself’;, ‘to lower my high blood pressure’; ‘to not die of a heart attack like my dad’ and so on etc… All of the above is a variation on a theme — here’s my ‘Why’ round-ups, most of which are linked to mind, not the body…
1. Exercise gives you a healthy body
Exercise is good for your cardiovascular and respiratory systems; it will help to control your weight which, in turn, will control your blood pressure, and lower your risk of certain cancers and diabetes. It’s also good for your sex life, “Regular physical activity may enhance arousal for women. And men who exercise regularly, are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than men who don’t exercise,” states the Mayo Clinic.
2. Exercise is the ultimate fix for mental health
There’s no shortage of research to show how exercise beats depression, boosts self-esteem and relieves stress. It’s a physical reaction; when you exercise, you boost levels of the hormone serotonin. When you dance, run, do aerobics, the increase in blood circulation to the brain positively affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and, thus, the physiologic reactivity to stress. Exercise is also great for self-esteem – weight loss and toning up help to boost confidence in the short term and, in the longer term, there’s great satisfaction from mastering a new skill and progressing with a task. Exercise, and starting to look after and love your body, helps to build confidence. If you have started to exercise and felt these benefits, here’s another reason to keep going – new research by a PhD student from the University of Adelaide, published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders, has found that stopping exercise can increase the symptoms of depression. The study was small scale (152 people in a variety of studies were reviewed), but talking to Science Daily, Professor Bernhard Baune, head of psychiatry at the University of Adelaide and senior author on the paper said: “Depressive symptoms arising from stopping exercise occurred in the absence of the typical biological markers commonly involved with depressive symptoms.”
3. Exercise gives you back control – of you
This covers both why one and why two. There might come a time when you cannot control what your body is doing, but while you can control it and you’re in good health, it’s important to take the opportunity to take care of yourself. Don’t be a victim to weight, stress and self-imposed illness, you can choose fitness and health. If you’re into instant gratification, you can get that when you exercise as those feel-good hormones float around your body. But a good reason to exercise is to reinforce discipline and self-responsibility, and knowing that you can improve how you feel by simply showing up and doing the workout. Keep doing this and you’ll understand the power of consistency – and you’ll see results.