How to exercise when you feel like you can't
Published: 1 September, 2017
We all know about the benefits of exercise, but what about those who can't find the motivation to do it? Here are some tips on how you can take on exercise when you aren't at your best.
We all know about the benefits of exercise – muscle tone, improved fitness, weight loss. Exercise is key to a healthy mind and body, it quite literally leaves you feeling balanced. But what do you do on those days you don’t want to get out of bed, let alone go for a run?
The key is to start small and incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, says Professor Vijaya Manicavasagar, Director of Psychological Services and senior clinical psychologist at the Black Dog Institute. She has found exercise to have terrific benefits for mental health. Even 10 minutes of vigorous exercise can lift your mood and fitness level and Exercise Your Mood is the perfect time to start.
It’s important to realise that exercise won’t work miracles though, and that it shouldn’t take the place of professional help. “If you’re exercising while depressed, or just when you’re coming out of a depressive episode, don’t expect too much from yourself,” says Manicavasagar.
Once on track with exercise, you may still have up and down days, but eventually you’ll get to the point where the down days are fewer and further between. “Bear with it and the benefits will come,” adds Manicavasagar.
So what are some ways to push through those sluggish days? Exercising with a friend is always a good idea, recommends Manicavasagar. Locking in plans keeps you accountable and it might mean you get to see someone you have been meaning to make time for. “You might even turn the exercise session into a way to talk to that person about how you’re getting on, how you’re feeling,” she says, “and maybe getting some advice from this person that you’re walking with”.
“If you’re exercising while you might be feeling a little bit down as well, it’s probably best to try and stick to exercises you are familiar with rather than try something new,” says Manicavasagar. This can be a good way to gain back some confidence that may have faded when your mood took a hit.
“It’s much easier to get started on an exercise program if you do things that you enjoy, so if you don’t enjoy group sports for example, don’t join a football team,” adds Manicavasagar. Another idea is to exercise in places that have provided you with pleasure in the past, maybe your favourite beach, or a childhood park.
Finally, remember to reward yourself. After all, you have done something great for yourself, why not recognise that effort? Your reward can be anything, from watching a movie, to reading a chapter from your favourite book. “That sense of pleasure [you get from being rewarded] washes over the activity and becomes associated with the activity as well,” says Manicavasagar.
Remember, if you haven’t exercised much in the past, get a physical and the all clear from your medical practitioner before getting started.
TOP TIPS TO GET MOVING
Start slow – walk before you run
Make it social – been meaning to catch up with that mate? Try a walk or hitting the driving range instead of lunch.
Treat yourself – did I hear you say bubble bath?
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