Ever feel exhausted or “blah” after a full day of what you thought was rest as you spent the day binge watching Netflix getting up only to grab a snack or use the bathroom?
What about those days when you must be highly productive, but realize you are making simple mistakes and forming a full sentence seems impossible?
Or after mentally taxing days, do you consistently toss and turn for hours on end struggling to fall asleep?
As society becomes more technologically connected, we are becoming more sedentary. This is a big problem for our mental wellness. Anxiety disorders are all too common and the ability to cope with stress in an effective and healthy manner seems to be a challenge that is increasing for many.
Story Time: I’ll be the first to admit that anxiety is my inner demon, and I often spiral out of control internally. I may look calm, cool, and collected to the outside world, but that picture can look very different when I’m alone. I can remember one long period when life was off the charts nuts…long-distance marriage, trying to find a new job out of state, sell/buy a house, help prepare an at-risk high school senior who was on the college-track with support, manage boundaries concerning other family challenges, etc.. If it wasn’t for establishing a physical activity routine and I do mean ROUTINE, I would have crumbled (or have been under 24 hour in-patient care).
Running saved me. I would have never thought running was my thing. Seriously. Never. BUT after establishing a routine I stayed committed to, I experienced a noticeable increase in possessing clarity, remaining calm during times I would have lost my shit, improved sleep, energy levels, and my ability to be present/live in the moment with myself and others. DISCLAIMER: I was never a runner (couldn’t run a mile when I started), I was and am not fast, and I often had to give myself a pep talk to get going.
This story is not to advocate we all become runners, but more about advocating the importance of physical activity for your mental wellness. Increasing your daily movement does not always need to be extreme cardio or be a long duration.
For a quick read, see below for why physical activity is a necessity and some ideas to implement into your lifestyle.
5 Reasons Why Movement Matters!
Physical activity can increase your brain’s neural growth resulting in feeling calm more often. It also enables your body to produce endorphins to help you feel better. If you can get outside for some physical activity, you will have the added bonus of Vitamin D. Nature’s way of using sunshine to make you feel much happier. Get outside when you can!
Living a sedentary lifestyle can result in challenges falling asleep or with experiencing important deep sleep or REM cycles. A study done by the National Sleep Foundation found that those who exercise reported sleeping better than those who do not exercise. It’s as simple as that.
Can play a lead role when battling anxiety or depression
Research has shown some evidence supporting lower rates of anxiety and depression among people who are physically active to those who have a sedentary lifestyle. Studies have also show that regular exercise can work as well as medication for some people who are experiencing mild or moderate anxiety and depression. Read more: Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being
Increased alertness and concentration
Physical activity can work in a similar way as medication used to treat ADHD due to an increase in chemicals released such as serotonin and dopamine.
Increased energy levels
When your body produces endorphins, this can lift your spirits resulting in an increase of energy. You might just feel like you can take on the world!
Ideas to Decrease a Sedentary Lifestyle Allowing You to Move More Often
- Play! Whether this be with your children, your fur babies, a friend, or partner, move around to have some fun. Reflect on when you were a kid and think about how much you would move! Now go out or stay in and have some fun. Pro tip: You are never too old to build a fort, nor too old for riding a bike to your friends or playing tag.
- Stuck in an office all day? Walk during part of your lunch, even if it is for 10 minutes! Pro tip: Invite another colleague to walk with you–this is a great way to establish some accountability!
- Take the LONG way when walking to your destination even if it is to the bathroom!
- Park further away from an entrance...It may be just ten parking spots, but that is twenty more than you would have walked. Multiply that by the number of times you go to and from a store a week, then a month, then a year. You will have walked a whole lot! Pro tip: If you ever have to park in a parking garage, try the top floor. There often are tons of spots. Just be sure to take the stairs…not the elevator! BONUS: Less risk of your car getting dinged by a cart or another car.
- Have impromptu dance parties…you can do this anywhere, anytime!
- Schedule and invest in a physical activity you enjoy. Just because another person LOVES a cardio-strength class doesn’t mean you have to. Think about other activities you enjoy or would like to try and throw a little money at it to stay committed. Free activities are great, but we tend to be more inclined to show up to something we paid for.
- Move while watching one of your favorite shows. Just because you are moving more doesn’t mean you have to miss the latest This is Us. Consider doing some floor exercises (jumping jacks, lunges, squats, planks, etc.) while watching your favorite show.
- Request adjustment to your workspace (adjustable standing desk, balance ball, spinning/stepper for under desk are just some ideas). No funding or support? If you have a private space, consider getting a soft rug to bend and stretch until your heart’s content, or at least for a minute or two here and there throughout the day! It has worked wonders for me! DISCLAIMER: I just received an adjustable standing desk and am in love. You never know until you ask!
- Give yourself permission to try something new if you committed to something and have realized you hate it. It is okay to say, “Yea, I don’t like that anymore…moving on!” Just make sure to actually move on to more movement. Don’t give up just because you don’t like or aren’t good at something. (It took me a good six months to run a mile without walking!)
You Do YOU!