April 7, 2008

Let's get physical

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states. ~Carol Welch
Last week, I wrote about life expectancy and leading a long life. Many of the questions that the life expectancy calculator focused on had to do with healthy habits and family history. Keeping your body physically healthy boils down to exercise and diet. For the most part, I think I do pretty well with the first half of that equation. I workout 4-5 days a week and I actually like to exercise. It has become so much a part of my life that when I go several days without working out, my body feel awful. It is like I go through withdrawals. I always feel better after a workout, it is like a high.

But, I wasn't always an active person. I was never an athletic person by any means and never did anything active on a regular basis. It wasn't until I was in graduate school, back in the summer of 1998, that I decided to join a gym and try it out. I am not totally sure why I did it. I think part the reason was as a way to relieve stress from being in a doctoral program (it was my first year of grad school) and then the other part of it was dealing with depression (my boyfriend at the time broke-up with me after 6 years of dating).

I guess unlike other people I didn't start to exercise because I wanted to lose weight nor was I an active or athletic person, rather I did it for mental and emotional health reasons. Keeping the mind and body healthy are definitely interconnected. Starting to become active was one way to help me deal with my loneliness and depression and it was time for myself to let go and relieve some of the stressors of grad school. It did indeed helped and got me through grad school with some sanity! By having a regular routine of going to the gym and working out, I began to build my self-esteem and developed more confidence in myself. I also became less depressed over time and I was better able to deal with my stress. The benefits of exercise truly went beyond the physical part of me, it also impacted and improved my mental health and well-being.

It took time for me to make exercise a regular part of my life. I had to start off slow since this did not come naturally to me. I didn't know how to use any of the equipment at the gym at first, so I started off by trying out a few classes. Even though it took me a while to feel comfortable in the classes, I found that I really liked step classes. Over time and practice, I started to feel a sense of accomplishment in each class and so I kept going. Now it is 10 years later and I am still taking those step classes, not just for my body but for my mental health as well.

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