An Exercise Routine and Mental Health: Find Your Sweet Spot

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These bicyclists are maintaining a link between an exercise routine and mental health.
March 8, 2024

Everyone understands that exercise is a vital component in living a healthy and happy life. While we all may understand this reality, not enough Americans are exercising regularly. According to an article in Forbes, only 28 percent of Americans are exercising enough for it to be considered a healthy amount. While a lack of exercise presents its own potential problems, one that we are going to focus on is the link between an exercise routine and mental health.

We’re doing so as we continue our series of informational articles relating to mental health self-care. Below you’ll find an overview of the issue of maintaining an exercise routine and mental health, along with some of the ways to overcome internal excuses that lead to people not getting enough physical activity in their everyday lives. If this includes you or someone you love, we hope you’ll do what you can to add exercise to your routine, as your body and your mind will thank you for it.

General Exercise Standards

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, an average American adult needs 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity every week in order to properly maintain a sustainable level of health. There are different ways to achieve this goal that involve different amounts of time and different levels of intensity, but this generally represents the baseline.

We get it: That seems like way too much time to spend exercising given how busy our lives are in general. How is it possible to meet that standard? We also understand that one of the most common reactions to seeing this standard is to simply decide not to bother, as there’s no point in trying to meet this goal and failing. That leads to the formation of reasons/excuses to avoid this result and ultimately feeling like a failure.

We’re going to go over some of those more common reasons/excuses below in hopes that people will recognize that putting together an exercise routine and protecting or improving mental health are both achievable and even enjoyable goals.

1.      I Don’t Have Nearly Enough Time

American adults are busy people. We work all the time in an effort to keep up with our finances, and at the end of the day it’s far from unreasonable to feel like the day is gone. We not only work long hours, but we work hard, and when that’s finally finished for the day we feel like we deserve to relax. Few of us think that we have enough free time as it is, so there’s simply no way to wedge in another 30 minutes for exercise. In fact, according to this CBS story, approximately 60 percent of Americans don’t think they have enough time to get what they need done in a given day.

However, one way to build a link between an exercise routine and potential mental health benefits is to manage the time involved differently. After all, exercise does not need to be a 30-minute block. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be something that you do for 30 minutes at the end of a day. You can break it up into manageable time bytes. For example, you could go for a walk for 15 minutes in the morning and then another 15 minutes at lunchtime or after work. You can get creative with regards to how you meet that 30-minute threshold.

2.      I Deserve Some “Me” Time

We are paid to work for a reason: Few of us would show up and work every day for free, which means that we tend to think of our jobs as a requirement instead of a calling or a mission. According to Zippia, only 20 percent of Americans are passionate about their jobs. The rest of us view it as work in one way or another.

Who wants yet another form of drudgery in their lives?

That’s part of the problem: Too many of us think of exercise as some sort of miserable experience where we suffer and struggle. Falling into this trap is one of the ways in which building an exercise routine and enjoying the mental health benefits never happens for people. Instead, keep in mind that it’s possible to transform this 30 minutes into something you look forward to. It’s a fantastic way to wind down and separate yourself from the stresses of your working or daily life and transition into the evening. Make it something you want to do instead of something you have to do, and you’ll find the time.

Does that sound like it’s a classic case of, “Easier said than done?” It’s not, as you’ll see below.

3.      I Really, Intensely Dislike Exercise

Unfortunately, we’ve all been exposed to too many images of exercise being something that’s only worthwhile if we push ourselves to the point of collapse. It’s as if there’s something meritorious inherent in misery. That general image, along with the realities that can come with only periodic and overly intense exercise, lead too many people to dread the idea of it. According to a recent poll of people who do exercise regularly, 50 percent of them do not work out as much as they’d like because they do not enjoy it.

That’s a problem, as obviously, any positive link between an exercise routine and improved mental health is destroyed if people dislike it so much that they don’t do it.

The good news, though, is that there are countless forms of exercise. Instead of signing up for a class at the gym that you’ll attend once or twice and never again, think about what you enjoy. If you like being outside, go for walks, or if you enjoy a sport, find a league and start playing in it. Exercise doesn’t have to be a terrible experience – as we mentioned above, it can and perhaps should be something you look forward to as part of your day.

Exercise and Mental Health Revisited

We’ve discussed the link between an exercise routine and mental health in-depth in the past. There is almost no question that finding and maintaining a healthy level of exercise is something that will almost definitely help to not only improve, but protect a person’s overall mental health.

Like many other worthwhile things, finding that exercise routine that works for you may take a bit of planning and effort. If you put that time in, though, it could also lead to a world of benefits, some of which you may not have foreseen.

How SoCal Empowered Can Help

As we’ve been discussing, maintaining your mental health is just as important as doing what it takes to manage your physical health. While there are many ways to do so, which we’ll continue to delve into, for some people the challenges relating to mental health are simply too much to overcome alone.

There is no shame in facing this struggle. Millions of people do, and the courageous step to take is to seek the help you need, whether it’s you or a loved one who is suffering. If you find yourself in this situation, we want you to contact our team of mental health professionals as soon as possible to figure out how to get past this. There is a way, but sometimes it needs the input of people who help those who fight this battle every day.

Contact us today so we can help you plot a path forward.

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