When I see a new client in our clinic, I will always ask about exercise. A core part of mental and physical health optimization and recovery, exercise produces chemistry in our brains and bodies that will change our brain state (Barnhart, Bakke, Miller, et al, 2020). Our approach to behavior change has a basis in pragmatics. Do what you can do now. Get started exercising if you know you are well enough to begin. Start with small steps with the goal of learning to exercise consistently. It’s a ridiculous idea to pursue a flat stomach to develop a six-pack unless you are extremely fit and need that in order to feel good about yourself as a human being.
While we can’t exercise our way out of a pandemic or overcome systemic problems in our culture or world, we can help ourselves cope with the stress of noisy children, not enough PPE, loneliness, or the reactance of adults stuck in their rebellious adolescence.
Your body is all you need to get started. You can walk out your door and stroll down the block. If you have limited mobility, videos on Youtube probably have demonstrations of alternative exercises. Your muscles will begin to produce new mitochondria, your brain will produce norepinephrine and dopamine, and you will probably sleep better. Don’t sacrifice the good of getting started for the perfection of doing everything right.
Just the thought of getting started produces a psychological benefit and represents the first step called “contemplative change.” If my clients tell me they didn’t exercise as planned but they thought about it, I tell them they have taken a good first step. Now, let’s see what obstacles are getting in the way and try to set things up so the movement can begin.
Keep starting over until others are envious of your consistency.
David Barnhart, EdD