You may find yourself saying one of the following statements:
Does this sound like you? If you find yourself saying any of the statements above, you're not alone. Many people struggle to exercise regularly, even though they know it will improve their physical health. The fact is, scientific research has shown again and again that moving our bodies more frequently has a significant positive impact on our mental health as well. Regular movement can:
Good news! You don't have to run a marathon or even go to the gym to access these many benefits. Remember, just a few generations ago, most Americans made their living through some kind of physical activity. They spent more time outdoors, got plenty of sun and fresh air, were more attuned to the seasons—and they moved their bodies for several hours per day as part of their routine, not as something extra. Human beings have evolved to move regularly throughout the day. So, it makes sense to think of movement more broadly than just “exercise.” This can also make it easier for us to build it into our lives naturally.
Check with your physician regarding how to start and how quickly to increase your activity levels, especially if you have any of the following: a known heart condition, chest discomfort with or without physical exertion, loss of balance due to dizziness, loss of consciousness, joint problems, medication for high blood pressure or heart problems, or any other reason you should not do physical activity.5
In order to help you find a movement routine that works for you, we have created three resilient movement plans: the Basic Movement Plan, the Even Better Movement Plan, and the Ideal Movement Plan. Scroll to the bottom of this page to learn more about the plans and determine which one is right for you.
It is possible to do any movement with greater awareness and presence. Incorporating mindfulness into any of our recommended activities, even the more vigorous movements, will help you get the most out of the movement you've chosen.
Ultimately, movement should be fun. The best way to ensure that you will stick with a movement routine is to keep it fresh and do many different things that you enjoy. Keep it light and playful. Move with others whenever you can. And when in doubt, just move!
Review the three plans below to determine which is the best fit for you. We recognize that different people will begin at different levels of fitness and have different schedules, commitments, and restrictions. Feel free to switch plans at any time, either adding movement as your fitness level increases, or moving to a simpler plan due to schedule or health restrictions. The key is to keep moving!
The Basic Idea | Take a short daily walk and breathe deeply through your nose. Set aside 20 minutes or just make it part of your regular daily activities. Use the tips below during your walk.
Tip 1: Enjoy | Try not to see your walk as “exercise," or even as a means of getting from one place to another. Just walk for the pleasure of walking.
Tip 2: See the Sun | If possible, go outdoors, preferably in a natural setting.
Tip 3: Notice | Try to notice as much as you can about your experience: the movement of your body, your breathing, and all of your senses.
Tip 4: Mix it Up | Vary your pace, noticing how different it feels to stroll leisurely or to quicken to a more vigorous pace.
Tip 5: Breathe | Keep breathing deeply in and out through your nose as you vary your pace. See if you can keep the breath long and slow through the nose, even as you move more quickly.
Tip 6: Be Present | Remember, you have nowhere to go and nothing to do but to be fully where you are. You are simply enjoying movement for its own sake.
The Basic Idea | If you can do a little bit more movement to benefit your mental health, or if you've started with the Basic Movement Plan and feel ready to add more, the Even Better Movement Plan is for you.
Tip 1: Focus | Pay attention as you move. Whether planned or unplanned, notice how you feel. Remember to keep your focus curious and kind. Try to notice rather than judge so you can stay motivated as you move.
Tip 2: Move More Naturally
The Basic Idea | If you're ready to create an ideal movement routine to benefit your mental health, or if you started with the Even Better Movement Plan and want more, the Ideal Movement Plan is for you. Here's how to do it.
Tip 1: Move More
Tip 2: Get Aerobic
Tip 3: Connect Mind and Body | Add a mind-body practice like yoga or qigong 2 days per week (for as many minutes as you like). Go to a class or use a home video to guide you. Try this Yin Yoga sequence.>>>
Tip 4: Lift Weights
Twice per week, do some form of medium weight-bearing/resistance work (e.g., total body resistance workout, heavy-duty gardening, or light weight-lifting).
Tip 5: Rest | Take one day of rest per week.
Learn about the benefits of HIIT for mental health and how to implement the principles into your movement routine. Learn more here.>>>
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