Is it a weak body – weak mind or weak mind – weak body?

A little bit like chicken and egg or egg and chicken, which one was first on this planet?  It made me think more about why we often struggle to stick to good habits, lack commitment to exercise, yet have no problem with reaching out for that chocolate or a coffee. Scientists tell us that the […]

Published in The Thrive Global, October 21, 2020. Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres.

A little bit like chicken and egg or egg and chicken, which one was first on this planet? 

It made me think more about why we often struggle to stick to good habits, lack commitment to exercise, yet have no problem with reaching out for that chocolate or a coffee.

Scientists tell us that the answer lies within our mind.

What often prevents us from exercising more? 

Well, for many of us, the answer is: I don’t have the time. In fairness, this is a legitimate explanation, because to have time, you have to make time not only physically in your dairy, but also mentally. Your mindset plays a key role in this, as if you don’t put enough value, benefits why you should do it, it drops from your priorities list. You could have weeks when work feels overwhelming, deadlines which seem to be outside your control, which you need to meet, so it’s easy to draw the line and put things that are not priority on the shelf. 

I have a problem though with putting your health, exercise on the shelf, as over the years, I learnt that exercising regularly, eating healthily boosts your mental capacity, energy levels and you are more productive at work and able to manage stress better. This is not just me saying this, I experienced it myself when in the past, let’s say “things in life and work weren’t going so well.” Your health is your first pillar of success. Your mindset is your first step to get you there. 

Work and home life are interconnected, and one affects the other. Numerous studies confirm that the cognitive benefits of exercise enable us to memorize information quicker, we work more efficiently, and become more productive. Why? One of the answers lies within your cells. Your cells need energy to create energy, so through a workout you are waking up all your body systems into action. You are helping to regulate your cortisol levels within the body, you simply supercharging your body through movement. 

And yet, many of us continue to perceive exercise as an activity we’d like to do, if only we had more time, not one that is essential to our wellbeing. 

We need to flip the script of what we think about exercise is in our minds and start considering physical activity as part of our working week itself, so we giving an equal priority to this, and scheduling time, the same way as we schedule time with a client.

You may ask my friend: How can I successfully incorporate exercise into my routine and stick to it? 

Here are a few research-based suggestions: 

  • Observe your current habits and do these supports you leading a healthy lifestyle. Just a reminder of what habit is from the book I recently read “The Power of habit : Why we do what we do in life and business.” The author points out that when you chose to do a specific behaviour number of times, it triggers connections in our nervous system, which in turn affects your other sensory and motor actions. This is is called ‘muscle memory.’ These connections then are further enhanced and strengthened as the triggers are repeated, and responses are obtained. In the psychological aspect, habits are formed through learning and retaining what we’ve learned. When we positively rewarded, we tend to repeat these actions, hence eating chocolate and having a coffee with a friend seems enjoyable.
  • Observe what exercise you like doing and choose them to start with, and build up. Isn’t it true that when we find things we look forward to doing, for me: swimming, dancing, forest walks, we are far more likely to stick with it. 
  • Create a routine that will easily put you in an ‘exercise mode, an anchor if you like. For me is putting the same music track at lunch time, setting a timer to remind me, calling my work out a ’15 minutes revitalizer’, it does not sound so strenuous right, and it get you going. Once you start, it is easier to het going, partially as we also affect our mental state through get go mode. 
  • Observe how you feel while exercising and afterwards, as this will influence how you view exercise. Each time you have jogged, walked, swam, write down how you feel i.e. for me alive, energized and maybe achy, but in a good way. Your body is giving you feedback.
  • Change your state of mind and view exercise as fun, stop resisting and engage in it. It is the unhealthy foods we should resist after all, rather than spending time in nature, interacting with your body. Exercise is not a chore, unless we choose to view it that way. I get it, I is hard to stick with it, but priming your mind, can help you overcome the physical obstacles, so work with your grey matter more. 
  • If you need motivation and love competition to get you going, then set yourself manageable goals, write an action plan how to achieve these and action, and set a reward for reaching each stage of mastery. Achieving new levels of competence is enabling. So, enroll in an online class, plenty of these since Covid19 or hire a personal coach, which will ensure you are on track, buy yourself the right clothing and equipment, you are showing commitment in action and make sure it’s in your dairy as a non-negotiable meeting and you show up as your life depends on it, as the truth is, your  body, your life depends on it. Not giving the body what it needs, has a lasting long-term effect on our wellbeing. Having someone alongside you to confirm your gains in performance, will help you to stay on course, improve performance and reach your goals.

If you are able to still socialize while exercising amidst Covid19, even better, as when exercise feels like fun, pleasure, the chances are you’ll keep doing it. It is also a lot harder to make an excuse to a friend or a trainer than to persuade yourself to have ‘just this one time a night off.’ If you allow for that night, you can see when that’s leading you the path of undoing all the good you achieved to date. Tony Robbins states that as humans we all have 6 human needs. We have a need for connection, contribution, so we often will do things, because we want to feel needed and know that others are dependent on our participation.

Research also indicates that exercising as part of a team is very effective. So, consider football, badminton, doubles tennis, basketball, cycling club and any enjoyable, competence-enhancing activity, which depends directly on a team’s collective effort. 

Reframing it is a key to your success. Remember, an exercise is an integral component of your body and the mind, staying healthy and young. Having little physical strength or energy surely impacts on your wellbeing, so is weak mindset which bows under a little pressure. It is then a bit of chicken and egg, but healthy mindset will allow you to action things well from the start. Reaping the benefits from exercise contributes to a sharper mind, better mental health, which positively affects our wellbeing.

What are your thoughts on this, I would love to hear it? x

Published on October 21, 2020

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