There are references to the importance of physical activity and exercise for optimal physical and mental health dating back to 4,500 years ago. Even the ancient Greek and Roman physicians advocated for more physical activity for better well-being.
Within the past four decades, we have been inundated with evidence showing exercise is good for us, especially in the prevention of diabetes, obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and osteoporosis.
Some examples of what these studies have been finding:
- A mere 20 minutes of exercise can help one improve their focus and resiliency to stress. This could include walking to work.
- Moderate level of physical activity (level of intensity is such that you can still hold a conversation) was shown to improve resiliency to stress and protection of cells. This particular study showed that telomeres, or the tail ends of chromosomes, were more likely to keep their long length vs. break and be short with increased physical activity, conferring better health and a longer lifespan.
- Exercise can have the same effect on brain chemicals as an antidepressant, increasing levels of serotonin, nerve cell growth factor and endorphins in the brain.
- It also improves antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In short, exercise or physical activity is one of your best stress buffers, therapy for focus, mood and cognition enhancing, and overall improved physical and mental health.
That all being said, why do most people not do it? If we know it’s good for us, then why don't we exercise or engage in more physical activity? Only 15 percent of adults meet the guidelines set by the World Health Organization of 150 minutes a week of physical activity.
In hunter gatherer days, we were always moving. We walked, squatted, lifted, sprinted, jumped and climbed to survive. The reward to moving was to stay alive and get food. The stronger and faster we could be, the better the chances we had of reaping a reward and living another day.
Now, the rewards for exercise have ceased to be associated with lifesaving rewards. For many, our reasons are that we don't like it and have a negative mental outlook toward it ie it will cause pain, it's too hard, are too tired, are too busy sitting and working, or find it boring etc
Given these complaints, what can we do to get motivated about exercising?
Normally, the main factors that motivate people to do anything involve
For instance, some may have a passion for travel e.g. trekking Machu Picchu was always on their bucket list, which motivates them to participate in the activity of walking despite, let's say, pain. Other normally sedentary people will walk or ride for a cause e.g. creating awareness and fundraising for causes e.g. poverty, human trafficking, cancer or some other worthwhile purpose.
AND if all that involves some fun, with other people that one likes, the recipe for success is almost assured with most highly likely to go back for more.
Studies are also now showing that exercise compliance is even more likely when it takes place outdoors.
It has been found that "green" improves an individual's mental state without their realizing it. You may notice yourself that when you do exercise outdoors, you are less likely to notice discomfort, fatigue or negative thoughts. When you are outside, exposed to the beauty of nature, it's variability, it's smells and sounds, the brain automatically shifts into a positive mental state, as does the body. Individuals tend to feel a better sense of connection and are more likely to enjoy themselves in the physical activity they are doing.
So what does all this mean for you? These 4 keys, are the reasons you will make the time to exercise and leave your excuses behind if you are not a regular exerciser.
To make it easy to get started again and a sure way to bring some pleasure back into your exercise routine try these few tips:
- Find yourself a purpose, a goal a dream that involves you having to participate physically.
- Set some small goals eg starting slow and working your way up to 10,000 steps a day or 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise.
- Get yourself a buddy or a coach to create a plan, keep you accountable and moving forward to your goal as you see yourself making progress.
- Find places in nature to exercise, the more green and water, the better, enjoy the colours, sounds, smells and feel.
- Once your goal is achieved set another in motion.