Exercise, such as hiking a great trail, is great for your mind, your body, and even your emotions. Exercise reduces stress and brings about a feeling of contentment and happiness.
Everyone knows that exercise is GREAT for you. Being physically active isn’t only beneficial for the way you look, it’ s healthy for your bones, your cardiovascular system, your respiratory system, your brain, and even your emotional state. When we exercise, we release endorphins. Endorphins help reduce stress, improve our mood, and even bring about a feeling of happiness. Endorphins could give dogs a run for “man’s best friend!”
Exercise also helps us to relax and even improves our sleep. Obviously these add greatly to the physical and emotional benefits of exercise.
Exercise has also been shown to improve memory and mental ability and is believed by experts to be vital for maintaining desired brain function as we get grow older. Our generation is, for very good reason, concerned about Alzheimer’s prevention, dementia prevention, preserving our memory, and staying mentally fit. We read everything we can get our hands on and vow to eat better, exercise more, and challenge our minds each and every day.
The problem is, many people stop right there! They don’t change their diet, they don’t seek out ways to become more active, and they keep doing and reading the same things over and over again.
On the mental fitness blog, we spend a great deal of time talking about brain food (foods we should be eating and not eating for optimum brain health) and we certainly look at different brain games and ways to challenge our minds. Over the past year, we’ve spent more time discussing how exercise benefits the brain and strengthens the mind. However, we have to remind ourselves daily that thinking about these things or reading about them isn’t going to bring about the desired results. We have to make up our mind to actively pursue mental fitness. We must be proactive about all aspects of our health: mental, emotional, and physical.
I hope you’ll vow, today, to become more physically active. The great thing is you don’t have to join a gym, get on a bike, or even play sports. All of those things are great, mind you, but not everyone has the time or inclination to do any of these activities. My advice is this: Simply MOVE MORE!
Below are ways to “sneak” more activity into your days:
- When you go to the store, park as far away from the door as you possibly can!
- Be mindful of the number of steps you take a day – the more the better. You may even want to buy a pedometer to keep track of your steps. It’s actually a lot of fun to wear one on your waist and try to hit 10,000 (or more) steps each day.
- Clean house like you mean it! Clean for a straight 30 minutes, exaggerating each movement.
- When in the grocery store, take the long route to each item on your list. Remember, get your step count up.
- Use a push mower for all, or at least part, of your yard.
- Get in the habit of taking a 10-15 minute walk after breakfast and again after supper.
- Take your dog for long walks – it’s great for both of you.
- While watching television, lift weights, do yoga, or simply walk in place.
- If you have a sedentary job, get up often and stretch, do lunges, and even jumping jacks (this is assuming no one else is around!)
- If you’re a homemaker or work from home, make a point of having 3 fifteen minute activity bursts during the day. During each burst, get up and walk briskly through the house, turn on music and dance, or simply get in the floor and do the exercises you learned in gym class, circa 1970. (jumping jacks, leg lifts, push ups…)
- Find great hiking trails in your area. You’ll have so much fun you’ll want to go again and again and again. That, of course, is the idea.
Bottom line: Get that body moving and don’t ever let it stop. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body NOT in motion tends to succumb to atrophy. How’s that for shocking imagery?
Make each move count double!