Personal responsibility is key to using any wellness tool. It is up to you
to notice how this tool is making you feel, to decide whether or not you
want to use it, and how much use of this tool is best for you.
Exercise: The Best Anti-Depressant
by Mary Ellen Copeland
Almost everyone benefits from exercise. It is one of the most universal wellness tools. Regular exercise, whatever you can do, leads to an increase in energy levels and a sense of well-being. It relieves anxiety while improving sleep and fitness. You may notice that you think more clearly and feel happier after you have exercised. If extra weight is an issue for you, weight loss is often a welcome side-effect of increasing exercise.
Many people who develop Wellness Recovery Action Plans* include exercise in their Daily Maintenance section. I list exercising for at least 1/2 hour in my Daily Maintenance Plan. I take a walk or exercise in some other way for an hour if I have been "triggered" or have "early warning signs" of a possible worsening of symptoms. When my symptoms are serious, my plan instructs me to exercise with a supporter for at least 1/2 hour, more if I can. My Crisis Plan tells my supporters to offer to take me for a walk or to do some other exercise with me if I am in a crisis, and that I can decide if I want to or not. (*For more information on developing a Wellness Recovery Action Plan see Mary Ellen Copeland's website at www.mentalhealthrecovery.com, or refer to the enclosed book order form for Wellness Recovery Action Plan, Wellness Recovery Action Plan for Dual Diagnosis or Winning Against Relapse, or see issue 1.1 of this newsletter.))
Contact your doctor for a physical examination before you begin increasing your exercise if you haven't been exercising for some time, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, if you are over 60, if you have a health problem or disability that might be affected by exercise, if you haven't seen your doctor in a long time, or if it just feels like the right thing to do. Assess the exercise you have been getting as part of your job or daily routine. For instance, if you walk up three flights of stairs each day to get to your office, consider that part of your current exercise. Begin your exercise program or your increase in exercise gradually. Your body adapts more easily to gradual change and you will miss out on all the aches and pains that come with too much exercise.
Choosing The Right Exercise Program For You
When setting up an exercise program that is right for you, focus on what you enjoy. Whether it be swimming, hiking, dancing, working out on exercise machines while watching television, team sports, skating, raking the lawn, splitting wood, walking, etc., etc., etc... any kind of exercise that you enjoy is acceptable! You can do the same kind of exercise every day. Or vary it according to the weather, what you feel like doing or what you need to get done. It may help if you make a list of exercise options and post it in a convenient place. Then you can look at the list and decide each day how you are going to get your exercise. This makes exercise more interesting for some of us.
Walking deserves special focus because it is often the easiest, most convenient and best exercise for many people.
Sticking To An Exercise Program
Like most people, you may have had difficulty beginning or sticking to an exercise program. Perhaps one or several of the following suggestions would help.