This is the 2nd of 4 articles on exercise, to be posted over 4 weeks. The first article is “The Exercise and Mental Health Link“.
Research shows that one of the most popular treatments for depression – according to clinicians, researchers and patients – is exercise. The problem with exercise is that it’s very hard to start, or once started, very hard to continue to form a habit. If you’re like me you have a treadmill, a bike, or some kind of gym apparatus collecting dust in a corner of your house.
Here are some ideas to help.
1. Start slowly and set small goals. Aim for things that you can achieve, like walking for 10 minutes each day. If you go for a complete training program straight away then you are more likely to fail. I make this mistake all the time. I plan an elite-style exercise regime, then quietly concede a few weeks later that it never got off the ground.
2. Make exercise a habit. If you start slowly you are more likely to continue. Once you’re over the “exercise hump” – say the first couple of weeks – you will be well on the way to a healthy habit.
3. Do something you enjoy. This will help to associate exercise with positive feelings. Shoot baskets, go for a swim, or walk laps of the local mall. (But remember that ecotherapy is better than shopping center exercise). A symptom of depression and other mood disorders is a loss of pleasure in things that you once enjoyed. If you start and persist with an exercise that you used to enjoy, the pleasure is likely to return.
4. Exercise with other people. Exercise is very hard to start and then continue on your own. Especially if you have a strong gravitational force that prevents you from getting up. You are much more likely to succeed if there is a commitment involved, like a set of expensive aerobics classes, walking with a friend once a week, or hiring a personal trainer to cheer you on.
5. Rethink your attitude to exercise. Exercise is essential for keeping your body and mind healthy. It provides huge benefits to you, that can make a vast difference to your mental well-being. Exercise can also be enjoyable and bring a great sense of achievement or satisfaction. If you develop a positive attitude towards exercise you will find it easier to commit time to it.
6. Is anything else stopping you? Many of us have other barriers to activity, like self-consciousness. There are many different ways to exercise, so find one that you’re comfortable with. Don’t use it as an excuse that just prevents better health.
7. Build your exercise into a task. On the weekend I surprised myself by pulling down a fence (intentionally). Actually I only pulled down most of it – if I finished it in one day my wife would have been suspicious. Anyway, it was a lot of effort to pull it down. A lot of exercise. It is also exercise to walk the dog, or mow the lawn, or wash the car. If you combine your exercise with a task then you will have twice the satisfaction when it’s over.
8. Be reasonable. Exercise and depression don’t seem to go together, just as swimming against the tide doesn’t really work. Don’t be hard on yourself when things don’t go to plan. Give yourself full credit for your successes and keep persevering to form a strong habit.
“I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing.”
“I gotta work out. I keep saying it all the time. I keep saying I gotta start working out. It’s been about two months since I’ve worked out. And I just don’t have the time. Which uh..is odd. Because I have the time to go out to dinner. And uh..and watch tv. And get a bone density test. And uh.. try to figure out what my phone number spells in words.”
“The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass”