More than an Exercise Program
BY BARBARA A. BREHM, ED.D.
HAVE YOU EVER noticed that when you have to do something, you don't want to do it as much as the things you choose to do? This may explain why people who view their exercise activities as an opportunity to have fun, be with a friend or manage stress tend to exercise more regularly than people who see exercise as a painful or boring obligation. When you see physical activity as beneficial in your daily life, perhaps even as an opportunity for recreation, exercise looks more appealing. If you would like physical activity to provide more than physical fitness, think about whether you would like to incorporate any of the factors below into your exercise program.
Time with family or friends. Are there family members or friends you would like to spend more time with? You could talk as you walk together, or participate in another activity that you would both enjoy.
Group support. The energy of a group exercise class or a sports team can help you work harder or have more fun than exercising alone.
Time alone. Some people need a break from other people and find that break with exercise. They may enjoy a solitary workout or being alone in a crowd. A repetitive activity such as walking can provide an opportunity for problem solving and creative thinking.
Time outdoors. Sunlight and fresh air are therapeutic, especially for people who spend most of their time indoors. Consider walking, hiking, bicycling or skating. If there's snow, try skiing (downhill or cross-country), snowshoeing or sledding.
Opportunity for concentration or competition. Some people enjoy activities that force them to take a mental break from daily life. Competitive sports such as tennis, racquetball and golf, and adventure activities that require concentration, such as whitewater kayaking and rock climbing, force problems out of your mind. If these appeal to you, investigate opportunities in your area. Many masters programs exist for various sports.
Meditation. In disciplines such as yoga and tai chi, you strive for emotional balance through activity, deep breathing and a meditative focus. These activities are usually appropriate for a wide range of fitness levels and ages, and many people find them a nice change of pace. Repetitive activities such as walking, running, cycling and swimming can also provide opportunities for rhythmic breathing and a meditative mental state.
Purpose. Do you like to feel you have accomplished something with your activity? People who successfully incorporate physical activity into their lives year after year often do so because the chosen activity has a purpose. People may walk or bike for transportation, or garden in order to have beautiful flowers or fresh vegetables.
Fun. When you were a kid, you probably were active because you enjoyed playing games, riding your bike and doing other activities with your friends. Nothing beats having a good time. You can add fun to exercise in many simple ways. Watch funny movies when you work out, go dancing or plan an active vacation.
Meaning. Many people use physical activity to create meaning in their lives. For example, many people enjoy connecting with nature while hiking or performing other outdoor activities. Others train for events that involve fundraising for personally meaningful charities. Physical activity may provide a vehicle for strengthening relationships among family and friends. Mind/body activities may involve a search for emotional balance and philosophical understanding.
Enhance your quality of life
As you expand the ways that physical activity can enrich your life, you will become aware of the many emotional health benefits of exercise. You may feel more energetic and less fatigued, irritable and stressed. These psychological benefits strengthen exercise's physical health benefits, and enhance the quality of your daily life. As many people have observed, physical activity will not only add years to your life, but life to your years! FM
Barbara A. Brehm, Ed.D., is professor of exercise and sport studies at Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
original article found on www.fitnessmanagement.com