Sticking with exercise for better physical, mental health

Published 3:49 am Saturday, October 20, 2018

It isn’t news that there are many benefits to regular exercise, yet this nation still faces a growing obesity problem, high levels of stress and increased incidences of depression, despite the fact that numerous studies show exercise can help combat all of this and more.

While most of us have a whole range of excuses for not getting regular exercise, the reality is that it actually isn’t that difficult to get an effective exercise program started and to stick with it.

The key, if you currently aren’t exercising on a regular basis, is to start slowly. Almost nothing can kill that determination to exercise like trying to do too much, and the feeling sore, tired and discouraged the next day.

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The goal of regular exercise is to get at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week, but this doesn’t have to be your starting point. If you are currently sedentary, first check with your family physician before starting an exercise program.

When you do start, keep it simple. Maybe 15 to 20 minutes of any mild physical activity that you enjoy. It can be a brisk walk, a short bicycle ride or just walking one flight of stairs at work instead of that elevator. Look for exercise that gets you moving and breathing just a little harder. You can then increase the time or exertion level slowly so that you feel comfortable as you get into better shape.

Another way to stick with an exercise program is to make it part of your routine. Put it into your phone calendar just like you would a business meeting or an appointment. Make it a time each day when you spend a few minutes on yourself.

It also helps to keep a journal of your exercise. Do a simple note for each day of what you did, how long you exercised and how you felt when you began and after you finished. Odds are good that if you’re a bit stressed or anxious when you began, you’ll find you’re more relaxed and calm when you finish.

Numerous studies have found that exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. And its health benefits? Combating heart disease, losing weight, helping control diabetes, just to name a few. Exercising regularly and getting more fit is one of the best things you can do for your body and your mind.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at