by Mark Lecker, Pre-Doctoral Clinical Psychology Extern, Psychological Services
While a nutritious diet is an important facet to a healthy lifestyle, it is also important to exercise your body. Many people seem to think that exercise must happen within the walls of a gym or along a track. However, you can get exercise nearly anywhere there is room and it is safe. Sometimes it’s easiest to have a workout partner or a physical trainer to help with motivation, encouragement and to prevent injuries.
Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day (1) and only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week (2). Illinois is one of only six states in the entire country that require physical fitness classes in every grade from K-12 (3). While these statistics can be discouraging, it should be noted that 30 minutes of physical activities doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym and working out for a half-hour. “Exercise” can encompass a variety of activities, including taking a 30-minute walk.
Additionally, physical exercise can result in benefits that aren’t limited to the body. Physical activity has been linked to an increase in feelings of vitality and positive emotions (4). Research shows that people are more likely to exercise on days when they are feeling positive (5). Thus, if a person feels emotionally better when they exercise, and are more likely to exercise when they’re feeling positive, a strong exercise habit can be formed.
Studies have shown that exercise can help treat symptoms of various psychological diagnoses, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and even PTSD (6). Specifically with depression, exercise seems to be linked with preventing a relapse into a depressive state (7). So, it not only can be good for you psychologically in the short-term, but there are long-term effects as well. Exercise has long-term benefits such as helping facilitate the release of endorphins-- which have been linked to sharper memories-- higher self-esteem, better sleep, more energy overall and a boost to your immune system (6).
Where to Start?
Starting a workout routine can be daunting and overwhelming. Here are some helpful guidelines that you can use to begin an exercise regimen: (8) First, get medical clearance from your physician before starting a new workout routine. Ditch the all-or- nothing attitude – any exercise is better than none.
- Be kind to yourself – don’t focus on the negatives, focus on the positives
- Check your expectations – don’t be discouraged, fitness doesn’t occur overnight
- Choose activities that you enjoy
- Moderate exercise can include walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking), water aerobics, bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour, ballroom dancing, or general gardening, to name a few. (9)
Start Small and Build Momentum
- Reward yourself – rewards (such as a hot bath or a favorite cup of tea) can be nice incentives to complete a workout
- Exercise can be done nearly anywhere - including the workplace! You can periodically take walks around the office, use the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator, or even do exercises using your chair to increase your arm strength.
JCFS Chicago Can Help!
With a little creativity, any of the activities can be adjusted for children. The Integrated Pediatric Therapies program at JCFS Chicago offers Aquatic Therapy as an early intervention technique for children.
Aquatic Therapy essentially is Speech and Occupational Therapy in the water, helping children increase their motor skills, strengthen muscles and work on other play skills while using the water as a therapy tool. For more information, please contact Jennie Marble at 847.412.4379.
Here are some examples of workout routines that you can do at home, with no equipment:
- Calorie Burning Low Impact Cardio Workout for Beginners - Recovery Cardio Workout with No Jumping (YouTube)
- Low-impact exercises with high-impact results: 10 minute workout | Herbalife Workout (YouTube)
- Chair exercises - Low Impact Exercises - Sitting Exercises (YouTube)
Visit a local gym, sign-up for classes such as cycling, Zumba, or yoga, or work with a trainer to develop an exercise regimen.
The following two links are specific examples of ways that you can get exercise in an office or work environment:
- Fitness Workouts for the Office: Denise Austin- Complete Series (YouTube)
- 10 Office Exercises You Can Do Secretly
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010.
- National Association for Sport and Physical Education/American Heart Association. 2012 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA.
- Liao, Y., Shonkoff, E. T., & Dunton, G. F. (2015). The acute relationships between affect, physical feeling states, and physical activity in daily life: a review of current evidence. Frontiers in psychology, 6.
- Schöndube, A., Kanning, M., & Fuchs, R. (2016). The bidirectional effect between momentary affective states and exercise duration on a day level. Frontiers in psychology, 7.
- HelpGuide.org, The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise (n.d.).
- Weir, K. (2011). The exercise effect. Monitor on Psychology, 42(11).
- HelpGuide.org, How to Start Exercising & Stick to It (n.d.).
- US Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.