The body is our root, our foundation. When our body feels good, our mind also feels good. The connection works both ways, and the key to happiness and health may lie in keeping up the relationship between the mind and the body; looking after both.
One of the most important ways to stay healthy in the body is through using it. Exercise has been around since the beginning of man, back in the times when having a strong, fast, and healthy body was an absolute necessity for survival. Back in our caveman days, and until more recently than you might imagine, exercise was a natural part of our life. We caught food, we walked through nature, we sprinted for prey, and from predators.
Some lifestyles and jobs don’t always demand exercise, and rarely do we need it for direct survival. If you do not get any exercise through your vocation then it is vital to implement enough in your spare time. This will be different for everyone, and each person will find different ways to fit exercise into their life in an enjoyable manner. Here are some simple suggestions to help you on your way.
1. Include an enjoyable and casual exercise session in your morning routine
Routine is a large part of many lifestyles. Routine may be samey, but it does allow for everything within it to become automatic and unconscious. Rather than battle against routine, why not use it to our advantage in this case.
So you wake up, get some breakfast, have a shower, have a coffee, whatever it might be. Well how about you wake up 20 minutes earlier, get some breakfast, do some stretches and some very mild jogging, have a shower, and then a coffee.
The best exercises for the morning are gentle stretches to wake up the muscles, followed by a little bit of heart-pumping to get the blood flowing. The result is not just better health; watch as performance at work also improves.
2. Walk or cycle to work
I appreciate that this is not always possible, and is determined by distance. The tip is generalized but the message is simple for those who want to read it; most of us are guilty of driving, or taking transport where we don’t really need to. We are a lazy species and the temptation is nearly always there, but why not walk every now and again. Consider walking the last leg of the journey, or cycle to the train station and then to work, rather than getting a bus. I know a lot of people who would drive to a shop 10 minutes walk down the road.
All of these little walks, which many people actively avoid, add up to a nice amount of regular exercise. Walking or cycling during day-to-day life, whenever possible, gives us a good amount. It’s also healthy for the mind to get out regularly in this way; it churns it up and gives it fresh stimulus. “The fresh air does us good.” And at the risk of sounding like an eco-warrior coming down hard on your exhaust pipe, it’s better for the environment too!
3. Take up a physically demanding hobby
Honestly, there are plenty, plenty, out there. The world is full of hobbies, and whilst crafting a model airplane is a fine use of time if that’s what makes you tick, it can be useful, enjoyable, and healthy to take up something that is more physically challenging. Dance, martial arts, swimming, yoga, climbing, hiking, biking, jogging, sports of all types; these are just a few among hundreds of possibilities.
Many of these activities include demanding training and exercise, coupled with the learning of new skills, and the enjoyment of fun new experiences. The fact that these activities are often held weekly adds the routine element that can help keep you on track. So why not learn something new in the process of getting healthy?
4. Use what you have
If your area has a well known gym, then try it out. Swimming pool and health centre nearby? Go there for a swim. Do you have a pet dog? There you go then, it’ll do both of you some good to go for a walk twice a day. Draw on like-minded friends as a resource too; other people who share your vision of better health, and a stronger body. Help each other by organizing activities together, and motivating each other in any way you can; get competitive if that is what drives you.
5. Cultivate the mind-state
I believe the long term aim is to cultivate the correct mind-state for exercise. At first it might be necessary to force yourself into it. It was for me. Be firm during this process, use routine, and stay motivated. Over time, and as you feel the benefits of exercise for yourself, you will find that you actually want to do more, and that it feels wrong not doing any. As you become more aware of the effects of exercise on your body you will have a natural urge to exercise, and will value it more than you value your more unhealthy pass-times. The mindset of a healthy person is that exercise is enjoyable.
We have innate intelligence in our body that understands health to a high degree. Of course it feels wrong not to use our bodies. Why wouldn’t it? We are not just a head floating around, we have legs, arms, a torso.
There are many physical and mental benefits for having enough exercise. With exercise your body will feel strong and your awareness will be rooted in it. Your physical presence will be stronger, and your sense of self more secure, as your body image improves, enabling you to think more positively about yourself. Something feels natural about being kind to the body.
Does the writer exercise?
I used to have very little concern for my body. My diet, and exercise, used to matter very little to me. I lived in my head; thinking. Sometimes I would feel bad and would not know why; I never considered that I might simply need to be more kind towards my body.
Then I spent some weeks hiking; five consecutive weeks, and later more. I worked outdoors in the garden more, and started considering myself a doer. Now, I try to implement exercise as much as possible in my daily life. I do some stretches in the morning, a bit of a shake off, and then I walk my dog at least twice a day. I regularly hike much farther, up mountains and hills. I do not own a car, and walk wherever I can, whether it be to the shops, friends houses, or to the train station which is 40 minutes away.
I still don’t consider myself to do enough exercise, and can feel weakness in my body when I don’t do enough. I relapse sometimes into laziness but I am always aware when it happens. I feel my long term mindset is there; now it feels natural to be doing exercise.