I love the passion that some exercise devotees have for their type of exercise. It means that they truly enjoy it and, most likely, do it often. However, that passion can leave some people confused as to what exercise is best for them.
The last time I was discharged from a mental ward I didn't have a choice as to what kind of exercise I would try. All I could do was walk due to my obesity and the strong medications I was having to take. Once I worked my way to the point where I was able to consider other forms of exercise I became completely overwhelmed. I had no idea where to start. There were people shouting from every rooftop about how their type of exercise was, hands down, the best.
An internet search for exercise programs instantly gave me a panic attack. After the panic had worn off, I slid into a ridiculously helpless depression, because I was sure that there was no way to figure out what I should do. Fear not friends; I found the answer. I can now say that I know what the best type of exercise is for those with mental illnesses. It is--the type you will do!
I realized this simple truth after I pulled myself together and decided that I was not going to be defeated. I made a list of all the exercises that were possible for me, and started trying them. I was determined to find what the best type of exercise was when it came to relieving my symptoms. What I was shocked to find was that I got some relief from all of them. If that is hard to believe, then look at these composite brain scan images after a simple, twenty minute, brisk walk.
Or, read this excerpt from Harvard Health Publications. (Full Article)
Aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart. You may not agree at first; indeed, the first steps are the hardest, and in the beginning, exercise will be more work than fun. But as you get into shape, you’ll begin to tolerate exercise, then enjoy it, and finally depend on it.
Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.
Nowhere in those paragraphs does it say that running is better than Zumba, or that cycling is better than circuit training, or that swimming is better than speed walking, etc.
Once I realized that almost any form of exercise would fire up my brain and reduce my symptoms I decided to find what I enjoyed doing the most. The reason was simple. I knew I had to exercise frequently to get any real benefit from it, and that there was no way I would continually do something that I hated. If I detested the workout I was much less likely to do it when I was supposed to, no matter how beneficial it would have been. I had to find things that I didn't dread doing.
For instance, I realize that HIIT is amazing for many reasons and that there are ardent supporters for it. That is all wonderful, but I still can't make myself do it. For the people that swear by it though, it is perfect! I see the appeal of working out at home, and DVD workout programs are loved by millions of people. However, for the life of me, I cannot motivate myself to workout in my living room on a consistent basis. The point is that there are hundreds of different forms of exercise and they all have two things in common, they improve both physical and mental health, and none of them are wrong if they are right for you. The trick is to find the types you enjoy, because no matter what anyone says, the best exercise program is the one that you will do.
I decided to become a fitness explorer, as ridiculous as that sounds. Telling myself I was a fitness explorer allowed me to fail over and over again, and keep going. It allowed me to be bad at things. Deciding that I wasn't going to put all my hopes into one type of exercise was liberating. It didn't matter how slow I was going, or how bad at it I was, as long as I did it, I won.
I have found my favorites now, and I am so glad that I did. I get to change up my routines so that I don't get bored, and I have become pretty decent at them. What a wonderful feeling. I found the things I like to do, and I do them. If I start wondering if I should force myself to do some other workout, I simply remind myself that whatever type of exercise I am doing, it is infinitely better than any I may think I should be doing, but wouldn't because I cringe at the thought of it.
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As always I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click the link to the right and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a great resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
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