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53 29TH ANNUAL CRIME PREVENTION GUIDE Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline. Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul.When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement. Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep. More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized. Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress. Reaping the mental health benefits of exercise is easier than you think Wondering just how much activity will give you a mental health boost? It’s probably not as much as you think.You don’t need to devote hours out of your busy day to train at the gym, sweat buckets, or run mile after monotonous mile.You can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well. Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing If that still seems intimidating, don’t despair. Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more.The key is to commit to some moderate physical activity—however little—on most days.As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off. Can’t find time to exercise during the week? Be a weekend warrior A recent study in the United Kingdom found that people who squeeze their exercise routines into one or two sessions during the weekend experience almost as many health benefits as those who work out more often. So don’t let a busy schedule at work, home, or school be an excuse to avoid activity. Get moving whenever you can find the time—your mind and body will thank you! Overcoming mental health obstacles to exercise So now you know that exercise will help you feel much better and that it doesn’t take as much effort as you might have thought. But taking that first step is still easier said than done. Exercise obstacles are very real—particularly when you’re also struggling with mental health. Here are some common barriers and how you can get past them. Feeling exhausted. When you’re tired or stressed, it feels like working out will just make it worse. But the truth is that physical activity is a powerful energizer. Studies show that regular exercise can dramatically reduce fatigue and increase your energy levels. If you are really feeling tired, promise yourself a 5-minute walk. Chances are, you’ll be able to go five more minutes. Feeling overwhelmed. When you’re stressed or depressed, the thought of adding another obligation can seem overwhelming.Working out just doesn’t seem doable. If you have children, managing childcare while you exercise can be a big hurdle. Just remember that physical activity helps us do everything else better. If you begin thinking of physical activity as a priority, you will soon find ways to fit small amounts into a busy schedule. Feeling hopeless. Even if you’re starting at “ground zero,” you can still workout. Exercise helps you get in shape. If you have no experience exercising, start slow with low-impact movement a few minutes each day. Feeling bad about yourself. Are you your own worst critic? It’s time to try a new way of thinking about your body. No matter your weight, age or fitness level, there are others like you with the same goal of getting fit. Try surrounding yourself with people in your shoes.Take a class with people at a variety of fitness levels. Accomplishing even the smallest fitness goals will help you gain body confidence. Feeling pain. If you have a disability, severe weight problem, arthritis, or any injury or illness that limits your mobility, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to safely exercise.You shouldn’t ignore pain, but rather do what you can, when you can. Divide your exercise into shorter, more frequent chunks of time if that helps, or try exercising in water to reduce joint or muscle discomfort. helpguide.org THE MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF EXERCISE continued

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