The joy series: Incorporating exercise into your life
Just do it
"Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save and preserve it" - PlatoIt seems silly to talk about how good exercise is for our wellbeing since everyone already knows this theoretically, if not in practice. It's been drummed in since our primary school P.E lessons and with every expert report that comes out telling us that we need to hit 10,0000 steps a day, aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day, or at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. But did you know that studies have found physical inactivity to be as bad for your health as smoking or obesity? Lead by Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the study found that inactivity was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths globally. This is comparable to smoking and contributed to an average of 6 to 10 percent of several diseases worldwide, including type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and coronary heart disease.
Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states - Carol Welch
Mentally and emotionally, regular exercise does us wonders, thank to the endorphins which are released in our brain everytime we execute physical activity. This chemical is a stress buster — it reduces our perception of pain, helps us relax, and triggers positive feelings in the body similar to morphine but with none of the side effects. One can't downplay the sense of accomplishment that comes with putting our mind over matter and achieving our set goals — especially in its contribution to better self-image and overall confidence. So the question remains — why are so many of us still not exercising when the benefits are clearly obvious?
"No time", "lazy" and "don't know what to do" came out as the top three answers when I casually polled my friends last week. If perceived lack of time is the excuse you fall back on, think about a little something writer Edward Stanely said: "Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness."
The issue isn't the lack of time, but rather failing to make your wellbeing a priority. Since time management is just the science of prioritising, make the decision for total wellbeing to be your top priority and you'll see time miraculously appear. If you're not sure what kind of exercise to embark on or how, its really no excuse given the number of workout apps available on smartphones or smart watches. As for laziness, exercise cures lethargy. Motivational coach and speaker Anthony Robbins says it best: "The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results." How's that for a rousing call to action?
Sure, time management can be tricky, especially at the start when you're trying to incorporate more exercise into your regular routine. Here are a few simple steps you can take to make time for more exercise:
(1) Sleep more and wake up earlier. Adequate rest is a key part of maintaining good bodily function and gives us the energy to fight the excuses.
(2) Getting up earlier means you can get your exercise done first thing in the morning, before the workday gets ahead of you. It's harder to do so after work as you run the risk of deadlines while trying to balance social commitments.
(3) Make it convenient. Take classes near your home or office, or work out with your buddies to combine your social and fitness needs in one. This will help you to build up your support network as well. Finally, take advantage of the handy exercise apps at our finger tips to motivate, coach and track your fitness journey to joy.
Here are three of my current favourites.
7 Minute Workout
What it is: It's based on the scientific 7-minute workout featured in the New York Times and lets you yield the maximum benefits of working out in the shortest time possible.
How it works: Using nothing more than a chair, a wall, and your own body weight, you follow animated illustrations and spoken instructions to blaze through a seven-minute workout routine — a feat which is harder than it sounds. You can also set daily reminders to squeeze in those seven minutes for your workout. No internet access is needed, so you can work out anytime, anywhere.
Why I love it: You can always find seven minutes and all the vocal and visual prompting is akin to having a virtual coach right there with you.
What it is: Guided yoga designed by experienced yoga instructors. All you need is a mat.
How it works: Choose between 27 different sessions of varying duration and difficulty. A detailed vocal and visual instruction guides you through every pose, including each inhalation and exhalation. The pose dictionary offers over 200 illustrated pose images with detailed explanations of the correct posture, alignment, and benefits. Link it to your Health app and track your calories burned.
Why I love it: The pose dictionary enables you to correct your own posture without having to go to a yoga studio. Perfect for those who're always on the go.
What it is: A robust tracker for your running, walking, cycling and more, using the GPS in your iPhone.
How it works: Keeps track of key statistics such as distance, time, speed, elevation, calories burned and heart rate, all optimised for the Apple Watch so you can track your heart rate directly from your wrist. A voice coach gives you audio feedback based on personal preferences and you can use the weather, temperature, and sunrise/sunset data to assist with scheduling training sessions.
Why I love it: A tracker keeps you motivated, helps you to set goals, and more importantly — monitor vital stats and progress over the long run (pun intended).
Next week, we explore mindfulness techniques you can try. To view more stories in The Joy Series, click here.
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