In my last two blog posts, I focused on two of the four ways to maximize energy. The first and most important of the four is sleep and the second is by eating nutritious food. The third way to increase and sustain our energy level is to engage in some form of physical activity on a regular basis. After a long day of work or school, going to the gym or for a run or bike ride is the last thing we want to do. We are tired and just want to relax. Nothing sounds better than parking ourselves on the couch and either putting on a sports game or watching the next episode of This is Us. Don’t worry, I won’t talk more about this show in case some of you haven’t caught up on the episodes yet! However, if you are able to overcome this inclination and make the extra effort to incorporate some form of physical activity into your schedule, over time you will notice some significant improvements in your energy level.
Benefits of Physical Activity
Physical activity increases the blood flow to your body and improves overall cardiovascular health. This will allow more blood and oxygen to get to the body which will provide more energy to do work. Physical activity conditions our body, which increases our stamina. For example, if you go out today and run a mile, you may end up walking half of it because your body lacks the stamina for long-term activity. However, if you run a mile a few times per week, within a few weeks, you will be able to run the entire mile with no problem at all. In addition to being able to run a mile without losing your breath completely, you will also have the energy to take on more responsibilities and tasks during the day.
Regular exercise also impacts the brain in many different ways. It improves our memory and thinking skills and makes us sharper overall. It nourishes our mental health, self-esteem and confidence as we start to notice positive changes with our body. When we are physically active and get our heart rate up, our brain releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters which function to transmit electrical signals within the nervous system. They interact with the opiate receptors in the brain and make us feel relaxed when released. Not only will this contribute to a boost in energy, but it will also serve as a means of coping with stress.
3 Ways to Stay Active
I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of running, I think of Back to the Future 3 when the man above says, “Run for fun? What the hell kinda fun is that?” However, if you prefer running as your method of engaging in physical activity and even consider it to be fun, then continue to do it! If you are anything like me, you may want to consider alternative ways of incorporating activity into your routine. The following are a few ways.
1. Sign up for a gym membership
A gym membership can offer you many different options for physical activity. You can focus on free weights or other weight machines, cardiovascular equipment like ellipticals or treadmills, or you can take fitness classes that help to improve posture, muscle tone, balance, coordination, and/or flexibility. Some gyms also offer basketball, racquetball, volleyball, and other sports that you can get involved in as a part of your weekly activity training. My family and I have been going to Team85 in Bordentown for the last few years and love it. They have a ton of classes to select from including Body Pump, Insanity, and Yoga along with plenty of weights, cardio equipment, a pool, and a gigantic field house that includes two full basketball courts, batting cages, and more. In addition, Team85 offers child care as a part of the monthly fee! (This is purely a personal recommendation, I gain nothing from the endorsement.) Snap Fitness, Jersey Strong, and RWJ Fitness and Wellness Center are a few other local options for memberships.
I know that it is sometimes difficult for people to find the time and finances to commit to a gym membership. However, I believe that we find the time and finances for the things we value. If you are able to rearrange your monthly budget and time schedule to make a gym membership work, it will definitely pay you dividends in more ways than one. If you are not able to make a gym membership work, another suggestion is to engage in either workout videos at home or to purchase weight or cardio machines to store in your house. Surprisingly, the downside of working out at home is that it may be more difficult to find the motivation to keep a consistent workout routine because it doesn’t connect you with other people. Finding a workout buddy to go to the gym with, having a reason to get out of the house, or even just being around others in general can help increase motivation to workout regularly.
2. Outdoor activities
There are plenty of things to do outside that require physical activity and are also entertaining. You can either choose to do these activities alone, with a friend, or with your family. Some ideas include the following.
Hiking, bike riding, sports (basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer, etc.), kayaking or canoeing, swimming, walking or running, mountain climbing, rollerskating or ice skating, skiing or snowboarding, gardening, sailing, fishing, and more.
Being outdoors will not only provide for a place for physical activity, but it will also boost your mood for a myriad of reasons. I will be writing more about this concept in a later blog post as it is a substantial topic and requires a lot of attention in itself. Once you begin to integrate physical activity into your routine on a regular basis, you will find that you will have more energy, a well balanced mood, and an overall stronger mental and physical health. Keep reading next week when I introduce the 4th and last tenet to maximize our energy level – a well balanced lifestyle!