When most people think of exercise and mental health, going for a walk or a run outside or the gym tend to be some of the main ones that come to mind. But there are many ways that we exercise without even knowing it. It might be time that we try and change our mindset so that we change how we view what exercise is and in turn help our mental health. I know that for me, viewing other types of activities as exercise has helped me when I feel down and guilty that I haven’t exercised.
Change our mindset
One definition of exercise is “activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness”. So any movement could be taken into account. Take house work as an example. Doing the dishes, hoovering the house, gardening are all exercises. For me hoovering is very therapeutic as well as getting me moving. I get lost in the task at hand. Getting outside and cutting the grass for an hour or two also gives me a chance to also listen to music or a podcast. Any house work can count from going through clothes to sweeping.
Introduce a new activity
Starting a new activity can also be helpful. From doing a sports club like swimming to a walking group. These can also have the benefit of socialising which for some can be a positive for their mental health. Playing can also be exercise. This could be playing catch or tug with a dog, playing games with kids or having a kickabout with friends. I know from experience these can be combined to having brought a ball on a walk with the dog and my child. There are also video games that can be active and not just specific exercise games. I have gotten a workout using a VR game having sword fights or using a bow and arrow. In other games that play as board games for example and have interactive mini games where the player has to move the controller in a certain way.
Am I expending energy?
These are just some of the ways exercise can come in unexpected ways. You just have to think, am I expending energy on this task, can it help me to become more active or has it always counted as me being active. I used to not include the walk for the school runs exercise but was missing out on thousands of steps a day. Just because someone says it’s not exercise if you see it as exercise and it gets you moving no matter how big or small remember, it’s exercise that could help you and your mental health.