Walk yourself a brighter world | It’s not too late to exercise and keep 2012 resolutions
February 6, 2012
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. – It’s the time of the year when the best New Year’s Day intentions to improve your 2012 health may have fallen by the wayside. All those fitness club memberships sold the first week of January are probably not being used as frequently or at all. Some people make exercise a priority and never miss a workout. These people seem to live to work out. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum with people who won’t take an extra step if they can help it.
Most of the world is somewhere between these two extremes. Given the extensive research behind moderate exercise, how can non-exercisers begin a slow, loving program of movement that would benefit their health?
Developing quick results of feeling better is the likely answer. Walking may be the easiest and fastest way to start. Start by walking, and then try a few steps more each day. It does not require pushing yourself to the point where you feel sore. Park your car a few spaces farther away than you usually do at the grocery store, allowing yourself to walk a few more steps. Wear comfortable walking shoes. You don’t want to be miserable doing these additional steps. You want to notice how your body feels moving. You want to praise yourself for anything you do to get some extra movement in your day.
You might stretch as you get up from your desk at work or when you get out of your car. You might park and walk into the fast food place rather than using the drive-through. Your goal is small, simple actions you can measure and give yourself credit for doing.
Exercise can take you out of depression and brighten your attitude. It can be an outlet for releasing your anger, your fears and your stress. It can redirect your thoughts, perhaps because you can’t focus on your problems when you are breathing harder than usual. You might find you are happier and more carefree as a result of walking for exercise and pleasure.
Often, it helps to have an exercise goal in order to develop a feeling of accomplishment while improving your fitness level. If you never exercise, you could choose to work up to walking an entire mile in the next month by practicing daily, taking a extra few steps. Just think of how amazing you will feel having accomplished this goal. You, the person who usually doesn’t move much, are moving your body. Give yourself credit for what you are doing. Health improves one small step at a time. Real change happens a little bit at a time.
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If, after a month, you have reached your goal of one mile and want to continue to improve your health and mental well-being, consider training for a 5K run/walk or some type of fund raising event for your favorite charity that involves walking. It’s very helpful to tell others about your goal and have support. This mental, physical, and spiritual challenge will help you believe in yourself. It will help you develop a healthy sense of pride in what you accomplish. The movement will help improve your mood when you are feeling down-in-the-dumps or discouraged by some crisis.
Never underestimate the power of movement to make you smile. One of the possible benefits of exercise is having more emotional strength in addition to physical stamina. You might even drop a few pounds as a result and walking will be even easier for you. It all starts with those first small steps and determination.
It’s not too late to keep your promise to yourself to improve your fitness level in 2012.
– Barbara Kramen-Kahn, Ph.D. has provided psychotherapy services for adults in Truckee since 1997. You can reach her at http://www.barbarakramenkahn.com or 530-582-5459.