I did the silliest thing the other day. I really thought I was on the…
I do. I hate exercise. I always have and suspect I always will.
That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the health benefits of exercise. I understand that sitting around all day is really not good for one’s physical, or, as it turns out, one’s mental health.
I was a skinny, weak little kid. My congenital heart defect meant that my lungs did not send enough oxygenated blood around my limbs, leaving me lethargic and lacking in energy.
Finally I had open-heart surgery at age 7, which enabled me to live beyond the age of about 20, for which I am very grateful. I remember after being bed-ridden and molly-coddled by my mother after my heart operation, finally racing outside and up the big oak tree near our house.
At 14 my mother told me to stand up straight. I stared at her and said I was.
“No”, she replied, “Your right shoulder is higher’.
I pulled up my shoulder and raised my right hip. Everything seemed a bit out of whack. It seemed I had
developed a severe scoliosis so familiar to many tall skinny people.
Yay! Back to hospital with me from which I emerged with a leather covered metal back brace (complete with plastic covered arm straps) which I wore for 6 months.
School sport was characterized by a mutual dislike and distrust of physical education teachers.
They disliked me and I loathed them.
One teacher told me to remove the t-shirt I wore under my sleeveless gym dress.
“It’s just with this brace, the straps are plastic and they rub on my underarms”, I tried to explain.
The teacher scowled. “Well, you’re going to get very hot”.
Thanks for pointing that out, oh-so-caring sports teacher who should have picked up my postural problems long before.
So my relationship with physical activity has been strained to say the least.
I was clumsy, unco-ordinated and couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. Netball and tennis made me feel inadequate (I was always put in the goal because of my height, but I couldn’t save a ball to save my life), hockey freaked me out (those wooden sticks and hard, hard ball), I nearly drowned in the swimming pool and point-blank refused to haul myself over the high jump bar.
The only physical activity I quite enjoyed was riding my bike and climbing trees. Something about the sense of freedom?
Whatever your physical condition, some sort of movement is essential for mental health.
As well as increasing blood flow to the brain, exercise also releases the body’s own antidepressant, endorphins.
People with depression are also lacking in another chemical, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes memory and general brain health. Exercise has been shown to increase levels of this vital neurotransmitter.
The trick is…well there are three tricks:
1/ Start small
You’re not running in the marathon next week, so you don’t need to start training like an Olympic athlete. A brisk walk of 15 minutes three times per week is an excellent start. Try to build up to 30 minutes over the following few weeks.
2/ Make it enjoyable
While you’re walking, listen to your favourite music or comedy podcast, walk with a friend, or treat yourself to coffee and even a cake (after all, this is not about weight loss; it’s about creating serotonin) at the end.
3/ Schedule the time
Use your diary or phone to factor in three sessions of walking this week and at least one on the weekend. Once you have committed the time you are more likely to stick with your plan.
One brisk walk will make you feel good for some time after, but for ongoing mental health, you need to make exercise part of your weekly schedule.
Get moving and lift your mood!
Go on. Start. Start today. Start now.
Your brain will thank you!
If you'd asked her 15 years ago if she believed life could be a wonderful as it is today, Vickie would have answered, 'I just don't know, but it doesn't seem likely.' Now she knows that if she can turn her life around, it's possible for you too. Ask Vickie how she can help you design the life you'd really love to live and say goodbye to depression forever.