Friends and colleagues know that I go to the gym nearly every day; in fact, my wife thinks I’m addicted to exercising, but when I provided her with a number of other addictions I could take up instead she reconsidered her objections and accepted yet another of my peccadilloes.
But although I undoubtedly enjoy the many physical benefits that come from regular exercising, including looking better (we all have a little narcissist in us) and being able to actively participate in more enjoyable activities, the main benefits I gain are psychological.
For me, exercise has proven to be the most powerful and the fastest acting antidepressant and stress buster. And there’s no doubt I’m not on my own here; several decades of research have now proven that regular activity and exercising provides just as many mental benefits as it does muscular ones.
In 2007, for example, Israeli investigators showed that even just one hour of aerobic exercise improved executive, cognitive functioning. Local research from Macquarie University’s Department of Psychology also found that the taking up of a regular exercise program significantly improved self-regulatory behaviours. And earlier this year, a group of researchers from Germany’s Institute of Sports and Sports Science found that regular aerobic exercise increased the capacity of participants’ ability to manage real life stressors.
Other studies have found that regular exercise improves body image and that it can be an important adjunct to other effective interventions for depression; and if that weren’t enough, it contributes to people living longer, and better.
Sadly, however, the 2011 census, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, revealed that around six out of 10 Australian adults did not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. If you think this sounds bad then it could, in reality, be even worse. World Health Organisation exercise guidelines have been brought into question by new research from the University of Queensland that showed we needed five times the recommended activity for a significant reduction in risk.
So, if regular exercise has so many benefits, why do so few people do enough of it?
Well, I think I know the answer. Most arguments for exercise focus on weight loss and/or long-term health benefits. Many of the higher profile “fitspo” social media stars focus on physical appearance and looking great.
Now, although none of these are completely inappropriate goals, not everyone is interested in weight loss and, by definition, the real health benefits that come from regular exercise aren’t realised for many years; by which time motivation can easily suffer. Add on to this the fact that many people don’t enjoy running, or they find the gym intimidating, and we have a situation where a very large percentage of Australians are quite simply not living their best lives because they’re quite simply avoiding one of the quickest and easiest (not to mention cheapest) happiness and wellbeing strategies available!
Instead of how it can make us (hypothetically) look, let’s focus more on how exercise makes us feel; let’s put more emphasis on the non-physical benefits that flow from regular exercise.
Do you want to live your best possible life? Then exercise will provide you with the energy you need to do what you want to do!
So rather than aiming for abs and biceps, aim instead for more happiness and zest. Rather than focusing on how much you weigh, enjoy instead gains in how good you feel. Track your mood and your sleep and even your performance at work and there’s no doubt the gains you realise will spur you on to a bigger and better life!
Sourced from: The Sydney Morning Herald