I’ll admit it: Whatever kind of person is the opposite of a gym rat, I’m that. For starters, I’ve never been on an organized sports team — I made it two hours in high school cross country before realizing running across town was the stuff of my nightmares. I’m so highly uncoordinated that I’m probably more likely to win the lottery than hear my name in the same sentence as the words “pickup basketball.” I would much rather be sitting in a coffee shop waxing poetic with a friend than maxing out my heart rate at the treadmill. Most times I do plan on going to the gym, I drop my kids off at childcare, drink coffee, and write.
But when my therapist told me exercising can be just as effective in treating depression and anxiety as antidepressants, I became a little more motivated. What if there were a way to incorporate exercise into my routine that not only protected my mental health but also didn’t feel overwhelming? If you’re anything like me, don’t dismay. There’s a way — in fact, many ways! — to move your body without losing your mind. Here are a few simple ideas for integrating exercise into your life.
1. Go for a walk. Part of the reason I don’t love going to the gym is the hassle it involves. Getting my kids in the car, dropping them off at childcare, and then working out for 30 minutes on a machine (when I’d rather be showering or napping or working or just about anything else) feels like a waste of time. Still, I feel so much better when I’m intentional about getting off the couch and moving my body. So one day, I put on some leggings, grabbed my headphones, and went outside for a walk. And I actually enjoyed it! I found that the more I went — at my peak, I was walking 45 minutes about four times a week — the better I felt. So I was surprised to learn that 10 minutes of brisk walking can reduce as much stress as 45 minutes of working out. And per the Mayo Clinic, daily walks don’t only improve your mood — they also help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen bones & muscles, and improve balance & coordination.
2. Turn on YouTube and get weird. I gave up on workout videos a long time ago. They’re too long (for someone who’s not exactly in peak physical shape, 60 minutes feels like forever), and they usually involve equipment (or skills) I don’t have. Everything changed when a former coworker invited me to do Zumba in her office over lunch one day. For 10 very lively and hilarious minutes, we attempted to copy an overly enthusiastic instructor’s moves as he got down to Justin Bieber. Like some kind of magical balm, dancing and giggling with my friend drastically improved my mood — not to mention it got my heart rate up (both of which experts say are benefits of dancing). The best part was I didn’t even have to be good at it to reap the benefits!
3. Channel your inner yogi. Because I don’t feel like I fit the stereotype, yoga is another exercise I’d resisted — until I stumbled upon a treasure trove of free yoga videos on YouTube and realized how versatile it is. To me, that’s the best part of yoga: Because I can do it at my own pace, it usually doesn’t even feel like exercise. Any of the poses can be modified for people like me who may not be as experienced, and there are different types of yoga, each of which has its own benefits. Like all these other exercises, I missed out on yoga’s many benefits until I actually tried it. According to Harvard Health, yoga is beneficial to both mental and physical health because it helps develop awareness and mindfulness. It’s also a gentle way to soothe tension, lower blood pressure, and even help balance blood sugar.
4. Do some chores. If you really aren’t into exercise, you can still find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily grind. Have you ever noticed your heart racing as you scrub the bathroom or run up and down the stairs with loads of laundry? Doing chores can actually be an effective way to trick yourself into a little workout. Some of the most intense workouts I’ve done have been at the helm of a vacuum! To reap the benefits of cleaning, though, you just want to make sure you’re adding a little intensity to your household chores whenever possible. Try doing some lunges while vacuuming, doing calf raises while you do the dishes, or adding a little extra laundry to your basket as you head downstairs. Next time you do chores, you’ll end up with both a clean house and a healthy body!
What are your favorite simple ways to exercise? Tell us your routine @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)