I Can’t Fight This Feeling
Originally published in HIV Plus
It’s been months since I’ve been in the gym, and I’m finding it hard to go back. Between my job and my family and trying to take care of my dad (who is almost 80), I just don’t have the time. I’ve also been depressed and worrying that people think I’ve lost weight. How can I break this cycle? –Mike, Tuscon, Ariz.
It happens to everyone. The pressures of life encroach, and often the first thing to go is physical activity. From my standpoint as a trainer, however, discontinuing exercise only enhances these feelings of anxiety and depression.
Science continues to boldly demonstrate the mood-enhancing benefits of exercise and its effects on the immune system. In fact, improvements in mood are much more durable than once thought — lasting up to 12 hours after the workout is over, according to a new study led by Jeremy Sibold, an assistant professor at the University of Vermont.
Since the gym is dragging you down, your job is to mix it up. Here are some ideas, aim for at least 20 minutes of continuous activity.
- Get outdoors. Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood, swim at a local pool, or hike a new trail with your dog. Take advantage of your natural surroundings.
- Do something that scares you. Take a self-defense class or boxing lessons. Learn how to surf. Train for an AIDS marathon. It’s OK to feel nervous. The most important thing is that you try.
- Discover your inner jock through team sports. By joining a team, you’ll get not only get a great workout but also a peer group to motivate you. And you might even make some new friends. If fear is holding you back, make a contract with yourself to complete six practices before making a final decision.
When you’re experiencing stress, remember that exercise is a gift that you give yourself. The best thing you can do for your physical — and mental — health is to stake out some “me” time and recommit to a more active lifestyle.