Doing any physical activity you enjoy

There are many studies which have shown that doing physical activity not only improves our physical health, but also our emotional and mental health. Physical activity can help us sleep better so we are less depleted and more resourced to cope better. Physical activity releases feel-good hormones (cortisol) which make us feel better and are a good antidote to stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times. Studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression and can make you feel better about yourself. 

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Physical activity isn't always helpful for everyone e.g. if you have an eating problem or tend to over-train. If you're feeling really unwell, it can be really hard to get started and it can be frustrating if people tell you about the benefits of being more active. If this is the case for you, don’t be too hard on yourself. Beating yourself up about it will only make you feel worse. Build some physical activity into your routine once you’re feeling a bit better. It’s important to find a balance, and figure out what works best for you. You may find that it is helpful at some times and not at others, you are the expert on you. If you want to start something, start with small steps and build it up gradually. 

Being physically active tends to be easier if you choose an activity that you enjoy, and one that fits into your daily life without too much inconvenience. If you try to force yourself to do something you don't enjoy, you're much less likely to keep it going and to experience the benefits. If you don't know what you enjoy, then you may need to try out a few different things before you find something you like. 

Activities you can do at home

  • Consciously try to include more activity in your day-to-day routine e.g. run up the stairs instead of walking/asking someone else to get something for you, carry your shopping bags in one at a time or do some gentle stretching while you're watching TV.

  • Put on some music and dance for a few minutes as you are doing your morning chores or with your family/when you get a quiet moment alone. 

  •  If you have mobility problems do chair-based exercises - there are lots on youtube to get you started

  • Do exercises or stretches at home using an online programme – there are lots of free, online exercise regimes designed for you to try at home, including everything from chair-based exercises to yoga and cardio workouts.

  • Do active household chores, like hoovering, tidying, gardening or DIY - increase your pace if you want to build in a cardio workout. Put on some music if it helps energise you. 

 

Activities to do outdoors

  • Try to walk a bit more regularly– to work/shops/end of the road and back.

  • Arrange to meet friends for a walk/hike 

  • Arrange games in the park/outdoors for family/friends e.g. – frisbee, rounders, tag or a game of catch.

  • Try skipping with friends and see how it can bring about a good feeling.

  • Try a new sport, or join a team, group or exercise class

  • Take up cycling – riding to the shops or to work, or going on long bike rides at the weekend. See if there is a cycling club in your area or begin one if there isn't.  

  • Join a walking or running group

  • Try sea swimming with a friend or go to your local pool and see if they do adult swim classes or water-based sports such as aqua aerobics, aqua Zumba, or water polo.

  • Volunteer outdoors – https://www.i-vol.ie/

  • Try out your local leisure centre/community centre and explore what facilities or classes they have

  • Try a dance class – from Zumba to swing, ballroom or dancercise

  • Outdoors gyms – some local parks have free outdoors gym equipment you can use. 

  • Try a more mindful sport like yoga, pilates, tai chi or Nordic walking 

  • Try the Couch to 5K App to motivate you. This gives you step-by-step programme to follow and includes information about how to exercise safely and helps keep you motivated. You could also ask a friend to do it with you, so you can motivate each other. 

Always consult with your GP before making significant changes to your lifestyle, such as accommodating a new exercise regime, if you have been inactive for some time.

 

© 2020 by Theresa Cawley