Whenever I feel depressed or really anxious about things going on in my life, my Dad always tells me to get out and go for a bike ride or to walk the dogs because “Exercise is the best medicine!” My response is usually “Yea, whatever Dad!” But he’s totally right and when I do get myself out of bed and give my pups a walk or head out for a quick cycle I always come back feeling more positive and like I’ve achieved something (and burned some calories!)
It’s not just my Dad- there are so many studies out there that support the link between physical and mental health and stress how important it is to keep both in good check. Physical activity and exercise increase certain chemicals in your brain that have a positive effect on your mood. Good mental health means feeling good about yourself and the world around you. It means being able to get on with your day in the way you want to.
So this month Heads Above The Waves is focusing on physical wellbeing as a way to help boost your mental wellbeing. We thought we’d put together a brief list of some ideas you can do that are really simple and easy to help keep you active every day. Being physically fit doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours in the gym, joining a tonne of sports teams or shelling out all your money on fancy-pants equipment and outfits, if that doesn’t float your boat! Like we always say- it’s about finding what works for you! Here’s a few of our suggestions that hopefully will get you thinking about ways to get more active, or ways to make your exercising more enjoyable.
Just check if whoever you live with doesn’t mind…! Turn it up or plug your earphones in, and get your favourite songs on. Have a crazy dance party with yourself where you literally shake off your problems. Don’t worry about how you look, this is for you, not anyone else. Dance hard, and physically move enough to make yourself out of breath. (I love doing this, and I really let go in a way I can’t in a club with my friends.. in case my amazing moves over power them!)
There’s a tonne of free exercise apps from cardio workouts, to Yoga and Pilates apps. The great thing about these is that it doesn’t matter how skilled you are or how much time or room you have. Most apps have different levels of skills and different time frames. These are great if you’re looking for a quick 5-10 min burst of energy. We recommend Sworkit lite, Seven and Simply Yoga as free one’s we’ve found useful!
Hula hooping, skipping rope, handstands/cartwheels and hopscotch can take you back to your childhood fun and give you a sense of freedom, as well as helping you work up a sweat. This is a good one to do if you have younger brothers or sisters at home and can get them involved.
Try busting out your old skateboard, rollerblades or bike that you haven’t jumped on in a while. It’s true that it’s like “riding a bike” and you never forget! It also means you don’t have to spend money on new workout gear. And who knows – your old skateboard could be a vintage masterpiece now! This is something that can be done around your street or at your local indoor or outdoor skate park too. (Just be sure to wear a helmet)
This is a good one if you don’t like the idea of crazy intense workouts or exercising on your own. Talk a walk with someone else, go at your own pace, but try to go a bit faster than just a gentle stroll. Having a friend with you will give you a chance to chat whilst you walk, which is a great way of getting out of breath in itself.
Wake up a little earlier in the morning to take a slightly longer route to school or work. Walk or cycle if you can, instead of driving or getting a bus. You can even make the route fun – turn it into an obstacle course. If there’s a low wall, jump over it rather than walking around it.
When you get to school or work, take the stairs, avoid lifts. Walk about as much as possible. Don’t take shortcuts. Do any extra bits you can to get your heart rate up, instead of just sitting in a chair the whole day. This is a good tip for increasing your overall energy output in the day, and is so simple and effective. Once you get into the habit of it you won’t think twice about taking the stairs again.
Not all exercise has to be a serious thing. Play tag or basketball with your friends/family. This is an activity that can be done at home, and doesn’t need much thought put into it. Organising a simple game of tag is a god way to run about whilst having fun. Especially if you’re older, remember how simple and fun playing tag was? Now’s the time to bring it back!
If you have an old basketball hoop at your place, don’t leave it neglected, or head down to your nearest court (there’s usually a hoop somewhere these days) with some mates for a quick game or a practice.
Instead of just slouching into the sofa when you get in and not moving, try doing leg exercises or push ups while you’re watching TV or films in the evening. Even if you just say you’ll do push ups for the duration of the ad break, or lift some weights for the opening credits, it’s a step towards keeping healthy!
Cleaning or tidying your rooms can be really boring but if you try and do it quickly and really scrub and polish hard this can exert a lot of energy and get you out of breath.
Sorry guys, we don’t just mean Grand Theft Auto. Video games like Wii Tennis, Wii Fit and Just Dance are great if you’re lucky enough to have the consoles and games. They’re a good starting point for anyone who’s nervous about heading to a gym or can’t afford it, and it’s cool that you can play sports or have a dance in your living room or bedroom! Don’t be afraid to pull the curtains before you start dancing around – I had to the first couple times.
These are just a few ideas and we’re sure you guys can think of loads of things you like to do. The most important thing is to make it enjoyable so it doesn’t feel boring or like hard work.
Getting your friends or family involved too is a great way to engage with people and also may even give you the chance to chat about what’s going on with you or even time to ask how things are with them.
Another benefit of keeping active means you’ll be expending energy you could have pent up in you and will make you tired so you’re able to sleep better. It will also keep you busy and is a good diversionary tactic. If you’re feeling particularly low and like you might self-harm, intense exercise is a good way to get out your pain or at least put off harming yourself. If you can postpone self-harm for five minutes by going for a run, there’s a chance that by the time you’ve come back the need may have subsided a little.
If you’re nervous about exercising or you feel people might laugh at you or you might feel silly, remember that everyone’s in the same boat. And you’re just trying to make positive changes in yourself…Which can only ever be a good thing.