Simple Steps...to Better Mental Health

steps.jpg
 

While in college, my professor cited an interesting study. In it, people were asked, “would you be willing to take medicine that promoted weight loss, increased lean muscle mass, boosted metabolism, lowered blood pressure, decreased depression and anxiety, improved mood, self-confidence, and increased your energy?” Needless to say, the participants overwhelmingly answered “yes.”

However, when told that this ‘medicine’ was simply exercise and asked…knowing this, are you likely to now start a regular exercise regimen? – surprisingly (or perhaps not) the majority responded “no” or “maybe.”

It’s no secret that exercise makes us feel better physically, mentally, or emotionally... so why don’t we do it? The 2 most common reasons I hear from clients are:

1.  I don’t know what to do

2. I don’t have the time

I completely understand that. Between work, spouse, kids, church, PTA meetings, and the hundreds of things that vie for our attention, we are simply pressed for time. Adding “go to the gym” to the list seems impossible!

But it doesn’t have to be impossible.

In fact, you can incorporate exercise into your daily life without breaking much of a sweat!

Some simple examples that you can do anywhere are:

  • Chair sit/stands (Sit in chair, stand up without using your hands to push off, sit back down)

  • Walk

  • Take the stairs

  • Planks (Hold the top of a push up position)

  • Pick objects up and set them back down

  • Hold objects for a set length of time

Each of these activities can be done without a gym membership, fitness equipment, or even putting on “workout clothes.” So you’re now probably thinking, “Jacob, this sounds fine... but how do I incorporate this into my day to day life?” Fair point. Here is what I would recommend:

  • Step 1: Set a timer on your phone to go off every 30-60 minutes

  • Step 2: Choose one of the exercises from above that you wish to do

  • Step 3: Perform that Exercise for 30-60 seconds

  • Step 4: Resume your normal day.

If you follow these steps, you will have exercised for 8 minutes or more in a typical day! Research shows that it may take as little as 5 minutes a day (especially if you are in an outdoor space) to achieve mental health benefits from exercise, and you won’t need to join a gym or don the exercise outfit to experience the benefits.

Consider challenging a few of your friends or coworkers to do the same thing. Then at the end of the day, compare “scores.” You’ll get the benefit of accountability, some friendly competition, and a little more fun knowing that you’re not in this by yourself.

Happy exercising everyone!

Jacob D. Dye - Counselor, MS, LPC/MHSP

(LPC/MHSP: Licensed Professional Counselor, Mental Health Service Professional)