Exercise And Esteem

Self-esteem
is “The experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being
worthy of happiness.1” Exercising greatly enhances a person’s self esteem and
mental outlook while reducing stress. Self-esteem is a critical component of
any program aimed at self-improvement. It offers hope to correcting problems. A
close relationship has been documented between low self-esteem and such
problems as violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, school
dropouts, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement2. It is
never too late to start a workout program as a way to best build toward the
goal of improved self image and always too early to stop exercising. Early on
in the attitude adjustment process periodic exercise is necessary for good
physical and mental health. The focus of this article is to explain how
exercise improves a person’s self image.

Sudden,
seasonal bursts of energy towards getting in shape come and go with the
ever-changing weather. What is important is that maintaining some form of
physical exercising, beyond one’s every day cycle, helps reduce anxiety while
building emotional strength. How? Physical strain weakens pent-up, nervous,
energy that would otherwise fester and brew harshly within a person’s psyche.
One theory is that endorphins, a chemical the pituitary gland produces during
vigorous exercise, improves one’s mood. Regular exercise also decreases the
risk for chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, and there
seems to be a connection between these illnesses and depression3. Most people
agree that even though they may not look forward to doing a workout, they tend
to feel better after they do, and they are equally better to assume their
rightful place at work.

“I get bored doing exercises. Besides, there never seems to be enough time.”
How many of us have said that in the past week alone? Pry a crowbar into that
not-as-hectic-as-you-say-it-is schedule of yours and rush to find time to save
your own life. You don’t have to exercise every day to achieve goals for good
health. Initially, aim for every other day. Walking, or running if you’re
better able, for fifteen minutes is a terrific start. The average length of
time spent by those considered in good shape is about twenty minutes, three
times a week. Eventually, you should want to work out at least 30 minutes each
day, but work up to that gradually. Moderate activity that gets your heart
pumping a little harder and causes you to break a sweat is what you want to
strive for. Strength training is also a good idea. Be sure to warm your body up
adequately before you begin your work out.

Health concerns

If you’ve had a heart attack or other heart problems, chances are that you
would benefit from regular exercise, and you can probably safely start an
exercise program right in your own home. Eventually, you will begin to feel
better and want to do more. Being physically fit is good for your back,
especially your lower back. An exercise program that emphasizes cardiovascular
strength, flexibility, and strength training is good for the health of your
back. Activities that are least likely to cause chronic lower back pain include
biking, hiking, and swimming. Some activities with more moderate risks are
baseball, basketball, bowling, and golf.

Be certain to warm up before you go and cool down when you’re finished.
Additionally, done properly, stretching can prevent injuries such as strains,
sprains, and shin splints, while increasing the range of motion in the joints
and increasing blood circulation. Hold stretches – bouncing is not beneficial
and may even be harmful. Overstretching can cause injury, so if you’re
stretching to the point where you feel pain, stop. The neck, shoulders, trunk,
hips, leg and groin muscles all benefit from stretching. Sudden overzealousness
can lead to harmful excess. Do not overdo it. A little bit of tightness is
expected, but pain is another story altogether. If you begin to feel pain in
your joints or your muscles, give yourself days of rest until the pain goes
away. If pain continues, or if your legs or feet become cool or pale, see your
doctor.

Pay attention to your body’s response to heat. After 15 minutes of working out
in hot weather, your body temperature can rise as much as 5 degrees. Sweating
has a cooling effect on your body, and sufficient fluid is needed to produce
enough sweat. Drink water before and after you work out, as well as every 15-20
minutes during your exercise routine. If your body can’t get rid of heat
effectively, the consequences can be as simple as an uncomfortable workout or
as serious as fatal heat stroke. An even cool-down decline period is also
important after the workout is finished. If during this time you experience
shortness of breath, dizziness, cold or clammy skin, nausea, or chest pains
while you are exercising, stop right away and call your doctor.

Remember that oxygen is the key to life. How well one performs during periods
of exercise in full depends upon their oxygen intake. The only way physical
recuperation can be achieved is after oxygen has reached the blood stream. This
is why it is paramount to breathe properly. Always breathe through the nose and
not through the mouth. Oxygen absorbed through the nose reaches the blood many
times faster than air absorbed through the mouth. Of all the times to keep your
mouth shut, this is it. It is this revised breathing pattern that greatly
reduces one’s recovery time, while reducing the likelihood of a heart attack
caused form a lack of oxygen in the blood, barring any pre-existing physical
abnormalities5. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you reach your physical
potential. It can also help you avoid heart attacks and keep you out of the
hospital.

Some simple exercises

Where is the best place to work out? Many people cannot afford fitness clubs or
home fitness equipment. That is ok. In the home, simple chairs and the floor
are excellent starting apparatus for use by the beginner. And if saving money
is a consideration, staying home is a superior way to minimizes costs. Going through
these quick moves a few times a day, at home or at work, will help your body
release tension.

Clasp your hands behind your head and pull your elbows together and shoulder
blades back.

Gently bend your wrists up and down, holding 3 to 5 seconds each time.

Hug yourself tightly for 10 seconds, then change your arms (bottom to top) and
do it again.

Slowly tilt your head left, right, front, back.

Raise your arms over your head and stretch one hand higher, then the other.

Stand in place and march, using high knee responses.

Losing weight is high on the list of why people want to exercise. Muscle tissue
burns calories much faster than fat. Calories only burn with the combination of
exertion and time allotted to that strain. You need a rapid heart rate, with
quickened breathing, to achieve sought after reductions. Also, strength
training can tone your muscles and increase bone mass, especially important for
women, who are frequently at risk for osteoporosis. Weight reduction is in
direct relation to energy spent multiplied by time allotted. Here are some
additional exercise suggestions:

Park your car farther away from your destination than you normally do to give
yourself extra walking time.

If possible, take just 15 minutes before or after you eat lunch to go for a
quick walk

At work, walk the halls briskly or go up and down the stairs to get your blood
pumping a little faster.

Go to your nearest mall and walk briskly.

Add some fun to your routine with dancing or dance classes. It’s a great way to
socialize and exercise at the same time.

Exercising with a group puts peer pressure on all of us not to quit.

Exercise year round

It comes naturally to send kids outside to play during the warmer months. In
the winter, you have to make more of a conscious effort. During holiday time,
you need to exercise as much as any other time of year if not more, considering
the added mental stress that holidays tend to bring. People who stop exercising
in the winter and attempt to pick up where they left off when it gets warm are
exposing themselves to the risk of injury. Consider making exercise a family
thing. Go skating, take a winter hike, or even go on a nice long walk. The cold
fresh air will invigorate everybody and make sleep come a little easier too.
Exercising regularly in amounts of time that add up to thirty minutes a day
should help a troubled person fall asleep at night.

In bad weather, little daylight, or during holiday periods, there’s plenty of
time for over indulgence, making it tempting to spend free time under a blanket
watching television and eating from a giant bowl of chips. Staying active gives
a person not only more energy but the desire to want more. Remember: exercise
needs to feel a little bit like work.

Step up the pace

If a longer lunch exercise session appeals to you, it might not be a bad idea
to talk to your supervisor about it. You might get permission to do a serious
workout at a health club, a skating rink, a basketball court, or other exercise
facility, if you’re willing to make up the time at the end of the day – not a
bad idea, considering you won’t need to rush home and exercise after work. See,
I remembered how busy you are.

Challenge yourself in the following ways:

Perform your activity more quickly than usual or double the amount of time you
usually devote to exercise.

Add weight training to your routine.

Exercise helps when people feel down in the dumps6. It is also very effective
against major depressive disorders. If, however, you take medication for
depression and you’re interested in finding out whether exercise would benefit
you, talk with your doctor. Never stop taking prescription medicine without
talking with your doctor first7.

Once the new you is exercising, you will soon realize that exercise makes you
feel better. It is not your imagination. Make exercise a habit. As we all know,
habits are hard to break, both bad ones and good ones. That’s why you’ll find
it hard to get out of the habit of exercising once it has become part of your
routine. Tell yourself that for the next few months you are going to exercise
on specific days, week after week. After three months, you won’t want to break
this habit.

Footnotes:

1. The National Association for Self-Esteem (2002)

2. The True Meaning of Self Esteem by Robert Reasoner

3. Journal of the American Medical Association (2001)

4. National Association of Labor Statistics (2002)

5. American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (2002)

6. National Institute of Mental Health (2002)

7. American Council on Exercise (2001)


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