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They say that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," but can "a walk a day keep the stress away"?
The experts have done the legwork, and the answer is a resounding yes. According to the Mayo Clinic: "Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner's high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling."
So, there's no question that exercise is essential to both physical and mental health, but there's still the matter of your inner procrastinator, which is really good at coming up with excuses for why you shouldn't exercise. It seems to pipe up especially when you're already stressed out. Then, before you know it, years have passed with the same tired excuses.
Below are the most common excuses for not exercising--and the responses that will finally put them to bed so that you can get up and get moving.
I don't have time to exercise
Do you have 20 minutes a day? According to the National Institutes of Health, that's all the time it takes to reduce stress through exercise. More is better, of course, but 20 minutes is a good start. For most people, that's a 1-mile walk, a 2-mile run, or a 3- to 4-mile bike ride, all done at a leisurely pace.
You can also make exercise part of your work day. Join the two-wheel generation and ride your bike to work. Or how about eating lunch at your desk and walking during your lunch hour? If you work in an office tower, walk the stairs inside the building. If you drive to work, park a mile or two from your office and hoof it in from there. You'll walk that stress right off--and it's a pleasant way to start the morning and cap off the work day. (You may even save money on parking.)
I'm too tired to exercise
The reason you're tired might be because you're not getting enough exercise. Exercising actually boosts energy, waking up your body so that you're less tired. In fact, sleep experts agree that exercising too close to bedtime will actually keep you from falling asleep. Kick this excuse to the curb and chances are you'll soon have more energy.
I have two left feet
Even if that's true, you can still go for walk without causing much harm. Even better, go out and find someone with two right feet and you've got yourself a fun, non-competitive game of tennis, Frisbee, badminton or fill-in-the-blank fun sport. If between the two of you, you can make the ball mostly go over the net or fling the Frisbee in sort of a straight line and have a good laugh while you're at it (also good for busting stress) everyone's a winner.
When it comes to working out, I have no discipline
There are a lot of undisciplined people out there. Connect with a kindred spirit and become fitness buddies. Check in with each other. Start a regular workout schedule. When you have someone to answer to, you're more likely to follow through with your exercise commitment. Plus, the two of you can unload your mental baggage to one another--a great stress reliever.
If you prefer to keep your workouts and your socializing separate, take a yoga class. It's a quiet way to work your muscles and relax your mind.
I don't have the right gear
There's always someone at the gym who's geared up to the nines in some cute workout outfit (sometimes with hair and make-up to match). But don't let that intimidate you. If you have a decent pair of workout shoes with enough arch support, you can wear just about anything and be dressed for exercise success. Just remember to wear layers for things like walking, running and hiking, and if you're biking, make sure you wear a helmet and enough warm clothing for chilly weather.
So, now your excuses have no excuses. It's time to work out so that you don't stress out. And--bonus!--you'll get in shape too.
About the Author
Portlander Franny French is an editor and writer. She has been working in the field of web content editing since the prehistoric days before the dotcom bust.