Tackling your health goals can feel confusing and overwhelming. If you’re like most you are making New Year’s resolutions – like eating healthier to lose weight – around this time of year. You may have thought about working on lowering stress or creating a workout plan. Or maybe you’d like to create an exercise routine to lower stress which gives you benefits in several areas of well-being.
As you work every day to take care of your family and give your best in all areas of life, you may sometimes feel like there’s just not enough time to take care of your own health and needs. And you simply not know where to start. But the great news is that being healthy doesn’t have to be this complicated.
That’s why I created this Better Health Now Series. It’s for women like you who are tired of filtering through mounds of confusing or conflicting information about how to get healthy – and just want the simple action steps to start getting healthier and feeling better now.
Each month we will drill down into one specific topic, focusing on the simple actions steps to conquer that area. Whether your goal is to reduce stress, find a better balance between work and home, or develop healthier eating habits – we’ve got you covered.
You can start this year-long series at any time so be sure to sign up to be notified so you don’t miss any of the future posts. You’ve got this!
Create an Exercise Routine to Lower Stress
There are many forms of exercise that help relieve stress. Adopting an active lifestyle can help to take your mind off of everyday worries and give you a jolt of endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in our brains.
You know that exercise is good for a healthy lifestyle, but you still find it hard to fit it into your busy day. But fitting in exercise doesn’t have to disrupt your entire schedule or take you away from your family, work, or other personal commitments.
There are many ways to get exercise into your day. This could be strength training, yoga, or aerobics. Regardless of your fitness level, you can tap into even short bursts of exercise to help reduce stress during even the busiest of days.
Exercise and Stress Relief
Exercise is a way to maintain physical health, but it also carries a ton of stress-relieving benefit. When you work out your body produces endorphins which are the “feel good” neurotransmitters associated with the Runner’s High. But you don’t have to be a runner to get “in the zone.” Even a brisk walk or dance session can bring on these stress relief benefits. Here are a few more stress-relieving benefits of exercise.
Encourages social interaction
Socializing is great for stress relief. And Exercise provides a good opportunity to socialize and interact with others. Activities like group fitness classes, tennis lessons, or even working out at a gym are excellent options. Also, partnering with a workout buddy can be a good way to socialize while reaping the benefits of an active lifestyle.
Boosts your mood
The physical benefits of exercise – increased endurance, losing weight, toning up – can translate into emotional benefits too. Exercise can also serve as a stress reliever as it reduces tension, lowers depression and anxiety, and increases the perception of self-control.
Starting an exercise program can be as easy as making a few small changes. If you are looking for stress-relieving benefits from your workouts, you may want to set specific goals that allow you to exercise on a consistent basis, possibly daily. An easy goal to set would be walking to relieve stress at work during your lunchtime. You’re already at work; why not make the best use of your lunchtime?!
Talk with your primary care doctor if you are starting an exercise program, if you have any health concerns or before making any changes to your routine. Getting started with exercise is usually easy, but sticking with an exercise routine is where most people struggle. Here are a few tips to ensure that your new exercise routine is one that you can stick with for the long term.
Guidelines for a Good Exercise Routine
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, some physical activity is better than none. But it is recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of those. And for added health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of the two. ODPHP also says that adults can gain even more health benefits by doing moderate or high muscle-strengthening activities of all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
This may sound like a lot when you’re accustomed to being sedentary, but the first step would be to start incorporating some physical activity into your lifestyle and make it sustainable. Let’s see how this can be done.
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How to Stick With an Exercise Routine
Make it fun.
There are so many forms of exercise to choose from. Choose activities that you enjoy so exercise will be something you look forward to. This may include jogging, bicycling, gardening, swimming, walking, stair climbing, playing tennis and many others.
Set an appointment.
If you have a tendency to put yourself on the back burner for other priorities, make sure to set an appointment with yourself to exercise. Do whatever it takes to ensure you don’t miss your appointment. Create an appointment in your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, post a sticky note on your refrigerator or computer monitor, or tie a string around your finger. Don’t miss your appointment.
Don’t overdo it.
If this whole exercise thing is new to you – or if you haven’t exercised in a while – you’ll want to start slowly at first and build up gradually. Set realistic goals based on your fitness level. Doing this will help your body acclimate to a workout program and help prevent you from getting hurt when you start.
Create SMART goals.
Create clearly defined goals. Being SMART means your goal contains the following elements:
Exercise with a friend.
Accountability goes a long way to sticking with an exercise plan. Working out with a friend or co-worker can make you more likely to stick to your routine.
Re-evaluate your routine.
Evaluate your workout routine every now and then to see if it is still working for you. As we age, we need to keep a finger on the pulse of our fitness level and find activities that are still challenging, enjoyable and effective. Also, changes in other areas of life such as work or home may necessitate changes to your exercise routine. Keeping your exercise routine in alignment with other areas of your life will also help decrease stress.
Alicia Hyatte is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Family Wellness Expert, and Health Educator. She creates impactful, evidence-based health and wellness content and programs for individuals, families, and communities.