We all want to feel good and stay healthy as we grow older.
As we age, our metabolism slows and it is easy to start packing on extra weight even though our diet or lifestyle hasn’t changed. That is just how it happens.
Setting goals for our health and wellbeing is the first step in the right direction; goals hold us to our dreams and provide us with the action steps to make them a reality.
We might find ourselves gaining weight when we never had such issues before, and experiencing more health problems, including feeling low and unhappy, and may even be diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
Depression is recognised by low/depressed mood, loss of interest and energy, changed appetite (usually associated with weight gain or weight loss), disturbed sleep, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, decreased libido, social withdrawal, and, sometimes, suicidal ideation. Even minor depression can become disruptive in people’s lives, more than most other disorders.
This time I won’t talk about psychological treatments that deal with depression, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (also known as CBT), or Interpersonal Therapy (IT). These can be provided by GPs, psychologists, clinical social workers, mental health occupational therapists and psychiatrists.
Instead I would like to focus on the benefits of exercise for our mental health and wellbeing, not just physically.
We all are getting older and cannot avoid it, but the good news is that we can fight ageing and remain reasonably fit and healthy for life. We simply have to learn what we should do to get healthy, in the first instance, and then stay healthy.
To really become fit and healthy, we need to adapt our lifestyle to include more healthful choices, and avoid bad habits. Here are some practical ideas that might help:
- Stop or reduce the use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
- Stop or at least minimise consumption of caffeine and sugar.
- Walk instead of driving.
- Walk as often as you can and take the elevator rarely.
- Avoid unhealthy and instead choose to eat nutritious foods.
- Go to the gym as often as you can, or exercise in the park regularly.
- Meditate / pray.
It is about making small changes, as you can see. All you must do is begin believing you can do it. This will enable you to get yourself into a healthier lifestyle, where being fit is more of a priority in your life.
Understanding Our Body
You need to know the human body, as a way to get your own body in better condition. As soon as you start exercising you may come to discover things you didn’t know about your body. You’ll quickly see exactly how fit you actually are.
You should know about your cardio health, as well as what you could do to keep yourself motivated, and how strong you really are. You need to then work at them and to see what areas could benefit from improvement.
Exercise is Important
Exercise is an important aspect of staying fit and healthy and you must maintain it. In the beginning it may be a challenge! It is easy to say you do not have time; you have to make time. Keep your eyes on the goal and stay motivated.
Regular exercise has been found to improve mood in people who have depression, and especially for those experiencing mild to moderate depression.
Walking is the perfect exercise. Just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week might bring a change in your life, but you can increase it as you start feeling better and better. It won’t take you long to see the benefits of walking. The physical improvement you can experience while walking can also help you improve your mental wellbeing. Many studies have shown that by doing physical exercise you can improve your mental health. Being physically active also gives our brain something to focus on and can give us a positive coping strategy for stressful and difficult times.
Exercise can reduce your stress, boost your mood, reduce your anxiety, and improve your self-esteem and self-confidence. Those who exercise regularly often find it easier to relax and enjoy better sleep, keep their mind sharp, and improve focus and memory, as well as help to manage their addiction, if they have one.
The aim should be to work out at least three times weekly; at least two days of strength training is highly recommended. Make sure that you are receiving the most out of each exercise session and that you put your all into it!
If things become too easy or even boring, then try switching things up. Do not give up! Developing and sticking with good exercise habits will help you get fit for life.
The simple facts are this – you are overweight if you consistently consume more food / energy than you burn off.
Nevertheless, instead of thinking of how challenging it is going to be to lose all those kilograms (or pounds if you prefer), start with small, realistic steps. You lose the very first kilogram and the rest will follow.
The Benefits of Regular Exercise
Think about all these reasons to exercise:
- Reduced feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
- Improved mood.
- Increases energy.
- Better mental health.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Decreased risk of diabetes.
- Greater muscle strength.
- Less back pain.
- Boosted confidence, self-image and self-esteem.
- Improved physical functioning.
- A healthier body image.
As we grow older, exercise has been shown to help with:
- An enhanced sense of well-being;
- Buffering age-related cognitive declines.
- Better functional capacity.
So, do something, do anything, it will always be better than nothing!
It would be great if you can get yourself a workout buddy but if not, do not be scared to go on your own.
You do not have to do what people traditionally think of as ‘exercise’, either. If you can do something manually, don’t use a machine. If you can stand, do not sit! If you can walk, do not stand! If you can walk – walk! If you can run – run! A simple good walk can produce wonders. Don’t use phone or email if you can take a walk and at the same time talk to someone in person. Doing some physical activity releases cortisol which helps us to better manage stress.
After all, it is your body and you make your decisions. If you begin seeing the very first kilograms melt away, change your routine. Do not become elated at the very first kilograms. This has killed many a fitness enthusiast, because they end up doing exactly the same thing over and over again and that gets boring. Challenge yourself a little bit.
How Much Exercise?
Research has shown that those engaged in moderate exercise at least 2-3 times per week experienced significantly less depression, anger and stress than those who exercised less or not at all.
The current recommendations for healthy adults are:
- participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily;
- and remember, exercise of any type or duration is better than no exercise at all!
If you are struggling with starting or maintaining healthy habits like regular exercise, please make an appointment with me for support to get you motivated and on track so that you can enjoy all the benefits of being fit for life!
Author: Nenad Bakaj, MHumServ (RehabCouns), BSocWk, DipAppSci (Comm&HumServ), AMHSW, MAAC, MAASW, JP (Qld)
Nenad Bakaj is a Brisbane based Clinical Counsellor, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, Life Coach and Bigger Bite Out Of Life Trainer with a keen interest in positive psychology, mental health and wellbeing, and is continually developing his professional skills and knowledge. Nenad enjoys working with adolescents and young adults, as well as older clients, and feels it is a privilege to be able to support them. In the counselling room, Nenad aims to build rapport with his clients to assist them to reach their health, relationship, personal and life goals, and a happy and fruitful life.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422.