Get moving for mental well-being
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Get moving for mental well-being

When it comes to relieving symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress, there is one thing most of us can do right away – focus on self-care.

Physical self-care (sleep, nutrition, exercise) and social self-care are most often impacted during periods of stress. Attention to these can promote recovery.

Physical activity is one of the single most important things a person can do to improve their mental well-being. Movement is a natural stress reliever: It releases endorphins that positively affect mood, keeps the brain and body occupied doing something positive, and is time spent thinking and doing something helpful, instead of the opposite.

Exercise can also increase motivation. It helps individuals feel productive and consequently can increase self-esteem. It also gets people out of their homes and exposed to other or new environments, increasing their chances of recreation and socialization. It is also accessible and affordable for most individuals.

Research has shown that low-intensity aerobic exercise, for just 30 minutes, three to five days a week, increase positive moods.

Getting the momentum going is often the hardest part. These tips can help.

The key is to not wait until you feel like exercising, but rather commit to action, knowing it’s in your own best interest.

Talk with your doctor about your current fitness level and activities that are safe for you to do.

Start small – as small as necessary. Walking to the mailbox, or doing 15 minutes of yoga, for example, are good ways to get started. Think of activities that you enjoy doing. Broaden your definition of “exercise.” In addition to structured classes or personal training, dancing, walking with a friend, gardening, or playing a sport are all great ways to get moving. Start with something that feels right for you. Goals that tend to have the greatest success are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, my own, achievable, realistic, and timely).

Motivate yourself by having a friend or family member hold you accountable, or even participate with you. Leave a sticky note on your bathroom mirror to visualize your goal and remind yourself how good your mind and body will feel after you exercise. Eat healthy foods to fuel your workout.

Maintain a schedule for physical activity. But don’t beat yourself up if you happen to skip occasionally. The goal is to keep moving in a positive direction, step by step.

Making changes in our life can be scary and the fear of failure may loom large. But know that once you feel the difference physical activity can make in your life, you will realize how much you can’t afford to miss it. With spring underway and summer coming up, now is a great time to take that first step.

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