Your brain’s primary purpose is to move your body and a huge amount of your grey matter’s real estate is dedicated to exactly that job. If you want to keep learning and creating new connections in your brain, then nothing will compare to staying active and exercising.
What’s more, is that physical nourishment stimulates the release of countless necessary neurochemicals including dopamine and serotonin. Plus, staying active is actually the best way to prevent the loss of mobility that will leave us hunched and in constant pain in old age.
First off, figure out the why. Our reasons for beginning to exercise are fundamental to whether we will keep it up past our “goal”. Too often “society promotes exercise and fitness by hooking into short-term motivation, guilt and shame”, says Michelle Segar, the director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center. There is some evidence, she says, that younger people will go to the gym more if their reasons are appearance-based, but past our early 20s that doesn’t fuel motivation much. Nor do vague or future goals help (“I want to get fit, I want to lose weight”).
Then, pick something you like doing; it could be walking, or a class with a friend. The more likely you are to pick things you enjoy, the more likely you’ll continue doing them — groundbreaking, right?
Next, be realistic. Skip the ideal of going to the gym five days a week and pick some movement that works within your schedule and energy level, otherwise you’re going to be discouraged right off the bat.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Individual motivation – or the lack of it – is only part of the bigger picture. Money, parenting demands or even where you live can all be stumbling blocks. Tiredness, depression, work stress or ill family members can all have an impact on physical activity. Reflect on your week. Maybe fitting in a walk at lunch worked, but you didn’t have the energy after work to do it. Adjust accordingly. Nourishing yourself physically is not (necessarily) a sprint, but a marathon.