Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” As William Shakespeare intended in Romeo and Juliet, calling something by a different name doesn’t change its essence.
That’s the basic approach I take when I talk with those who are struggling and feel overwhelmed by the word exercise. Instead, I use the phrase “physical movement.” Many depressed individuals have such low energy and low motivation that exercise is the last thing they want to do.
By starting slow, even just ten minutes a day, we give our bodies, routines, and self-discipline time to catch up to what our brains know we need to do. The important thing is to begin doing something, no matter how small or simple.
The idea that exercise can alleviate depression, stress, and anxiety is not a new one. Neither is the idea that, in some cases, exercise can be as effective as prescription medications in stabilizing or improving moods.
Physical movement helps to strengthen bones and build muscles. Muscle-building exercises are increasingly important as we age, as the human body begins losing muscle mass from about the age of thirty. Movement also help’s provide a better night’s sleep. According to one study, people with chronic insomnia who engaged in medium-intensity aerobic exercise (such as walking) fell asleep quicker and slept longer.
Getting your body moving is not only a coping strategy that provides stress relief in the moment, but it also offers innumerable lasting benefits for a healthy brain and body.
Here are six ways to reap the long-term benefits of a more active life:
1. MAKE MOVEMENT FUN – Many people resist exercise because it sounds like drudgery—pounding the pavement with a beet- red face and sweat pouring down. That’s why it’s important to find something you enjoy doing, so you’ll look forward to moving every day.
2. KEEP A JOURNAL – As you develop an exercise regimen, write about any improvements you feel in your body, attitude, or emotions.
3. BE CONSISTENT – Especially as you get started, remember that consistency is more important than intensity.
4. BAN “ALL OR NOTHING” THOUGHTS – Consistency and commitment are indeed essential for an effective activity regimen—but don’t be hard on yourself if you slack off a bit.
5. ENLIST THE HELP OF FITNESS APPS – Downloading a fitness app on your phone or purchasing an activity tracker isn’t necessary but can be motivating for some people.
6. CREATE A FAVORITE WORKOUT PLAYLIST – Music and movement are a powerful combination.
Exercise is such a powerful resource because its impact is so comprehensive. The power of movement can become a catalyst for transformation in many areas of your life.
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.