Issues and Challenges

Physical Activity = Physical Health + Mental Wellbeing

It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigour.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero


It is a commonly established truth that exercise is beneficial for your physical and mental health. Exercising regularly is known to fight obesity and other chronic diseases. Even after knowing the advantages of exercise, there is only a slight increase in physical activity uptake by the general population. Many do not understand that physical activity can also boost your mood, improve your quality of sleep and help you cope with depression, anxiety, stress, and more. 
Exercise stimulates all sorts of brain changes, including neural growth, decreases inflammation and develops new patterns of activity that nurture feelings of peace and wellbeing. It also releases endorphins (powerful chemicals that make you feel good). Endorphins also help our bodies relieve stress and pain. The question arises: How does one get endorphins? Simply by moving your body and increasing your heart rate with cardiovascular exercise, by laughing, eating your favorite dish, eating dark chocolate or participating in recreational activities, etc., you can stimulate the production of endorphins in your body. People who work out routinely prefer to do so because it gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride. Throughout the day, they feel more energetic, sleep well at night, have a sharper memory, and feel more relaxed and optimistic about themselves and their lives. Exercise is a powerful instrument to deal with certain mental health issues as well.
Adapting an active lifestyle is not always easy. You cannot work out when you’re not feeling well and you’re bound to fall through at some point. Joining a gym or getting a trainer would be helpful to stay on track but if you don’t have access to these facilities, it can be very challenging to follow through. An active lifestyle is a mindset that needs to be cultivated overtime for a healthier mind and body. Making customized interventions according to your routine, commitment and physical limitations play a huge role in staying focused. According to a study conducted by Dr. Lachman of Brandeis University, Massachusetts, in 2018, activity can be promoted and embraced as a lifestyle by keeping yourself motivated (e.g., I will be physically fit), or an identity (e.g., I am an active person). A motivational approach recognizes the multiple influences on human behavior and it is also compatible with a personalized approach where adapting an intervention according to each individual’s values, beliefs, emotional state, goals, socioeconomic circumstances and environmental context is recommended. Physical activity can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%, lower the risk of breast cancer by up to a 20% and osteoarthritis by up to 83% (NHS, UK 2018).
What is Wellbeing? 
Wellbeing is holistically defined as a ‘positive physical, social and mental state’. Mental wellbeing does not have a single definition, but it does include factors such as feeling good about ourselves and being able to function well individually or in a team, ability to deal with the highs and lows of life such as coping with challenges and making most of opportunities, having a sense of purpose and being able to set and fulfil short and long-term goals. Psychological wellbeing does not mean being happy all the time and it does not promise that you will not experience negative or painful emotions such as grief, loss, or failure. These emotions are part of a normal and healthy life. Regular exercise on the other hand, can help you deal with these emotions in a better way.
Exercise vs. Anxiety
Exercise is a natural and effective antianxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, increases physical and mental energy, and enhances mental wellbeing. Anything that gets you moving can help. It is important to focus while exercising; this is known as mindfulness. Feeling the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, while exercising helps to improve your focus. By being mindful, you will not only improve your physical condition at a faster pace, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head that in turn cause physiological changes.
Exercise vs. Stress
Exercising regularly also relieves stress. Ever noticed how your body feels when you are stressed out? Stress causes muscles to tense up, especially your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with backache, neck pain, or headaches. Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle and it can increase your self-confidence as well. Since the body and mind are so closely linked together, when your body feels good so will the mind.
Exercise and Memory 
The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate. They help the brain stay sharp by increasing the oxygen flow to the brain and reduce the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They can further help you sleep better, and boost your overall mood.
Exercise and Self-Esteem 
Exercise helps build confidence by improving your body image. While exercising you are likely to strengthen and tone your body, and seeing these results can greatly improve your self-esteem. Regular exercise is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes a habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth leading to higher self-esteem and make you feel strong and powerful.
Exercise and Sleep Pattern
Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or in the afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote better sleep.
Exercise and Building Resilience 
When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can make our brain more resilient. Exercise will allow you to cope with situations in a healthier way, instead of resorting to drug use or other unhealthy addictions. Studies show that after six weeks of regular physical activity, we can see functional and structural changes in the brain, which allow people  to feel more motivated towards life.
Break the ‘Lazy Cycle’ and Exercise Daily
When you are tired, depressed, or stressed, it seems that working out will just make you feel worse. However, studies indicate that regular exercise can treat fatigue and increase energy levels. If you are feeling low, convince yourself for a quick, five-minute walk. It is likely that once you get moving you will feel a rush of energy and will be able to walk for a longer period. When you are tired, the thought of adding another obligation to your daily schedule can seem overwhelming. However, once you begin thinking of physical activity as a necessity for your mental wellbeing, you will soon find ways to fit five-minute exercises in your schedule no matter how busy you are. Even if you have never exercised, you can still find ways to stay active. Start with easy activities, such as walking or dancing.
Are you your own worst critic? It is time to change the way you think. No matter your weight, age or fitness level, there are plenty of others in the same boat. Ask a friend to exercise with you. Set small attainable fitness goals, accomplishing even the smallest goals will help you gain confidence and improve how you think about yourself.
If you have a disability, an injury or an illness that limits your mobility, talk to your doctor about safe ways to exercise. You should not ignore the pain, but rather do what little you can, whenever you can.
Physical Activity for Pregnant Women
According to Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, pregnant or postpartum women ought to engage in 150 minutes (30 minutes a day, five days a week) of moderate intensity exercise per week. It is recommended to spread this activity throughout the week rather than 2 or 3 days. According to scientific evidence, the risks of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking, are very low for healthy pregnant women. Physical activity does not increase your chances of early miscarriage, low birth weight or early delivery. If you do not have a medical reason to avoid physical activity, it is completely safe to continue or begin moderate intensity work out. However, you should consult with your doctor before beginning any intense exercise.
Physical Activity for Housewives
Are chores considered a workout? We’ve heard this claim many times that chores are equivalent to purposeful physical activity and help burn calories! Is this a myth or a fact? Not entirely true, not entirely false!
Like any physical activity chores can burn calories and tone your muscles, if you do them correctly! Scheduling a separate 30-minute workout daily can be difficult for women who have toddlers, teenagers and house chores to manage. But if we combine house chores and daily workout, we get more than 30 minutes of physical activity. This relatively mild physical activity won’t give you well-sculpted and toned muscles but it can help improve your fitness level. Here intensity is the key. Experts recommend speeding up the time in which you do something. More steps and more movements are what you're after. No one argues that doing chores can burn calories. How many you burn will depend on your fitness level, your weight, and the time you spend cleaning or doing chores. While even the most intense calorie-burning chores cannot replace structured exercise, every little bit of activity helps.
Many of us find it difficult to motivate ourselves to exercise regularly. Exercising regularly can have profoundly positive impact on people suffering from depression, anxiety, stress or other mental health issues. Remember to start small. Setting extravagant goals such as running a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only make you despondent. The best way is to set realistic goals and to build up from there. Schedule workouts when your energy is high. If you feel exhausted and unmotivated all day long, consider listening to some uplifting music to boost your mood. Even a short walk for 15 minutes will help clear your mind, boost your mood, improve your stamina and increase your energy levels. Focus on activities you enjoy. Any activity that gets you moving, counts. If you have never exercised before or do not know what you might enjoy, try different activities, such as swimming, riding or hiking. Activities, such as gardening or tackling a home improvement project are a great way to start moving more, this can also leave you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Part of the reward of completing an activity is the feeling of accomplishment afterwards, which is bound to motivate you further. HH


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