How to Balance Exercise With Other Well-Being Habits
According to the Department of Health & Human Services, only 30 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise each week, and less than five percent complete 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Yet while too little exercise can be detrimental to your health, overtraining can be harmful too, and if you’re spending most of your waking hours at the gym, other areas of your life might suffer. The key is to strike a balance. Read on to find out how!
The Importance of Exercise
You probably already know that exercise benefits the body. For example, regular exercisers have a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease compared to their sedentary peers. But did you know it also benefits the mind? A growing body of evidence shows that exercise can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. A study at Case Western Reserve University even found it could help recovery from substance abuse disorders, by repairing some of the damage that substance abuse can cause in the brain. However, that doesn’t mean you should grab some lycra and start training for the Tour de France—it’s important to strike a balance between exercise and other self-care habits.
Are You Doing Too Much Exercise?
Like all good things, it’s possible to do too much exercise, and overtraining can lead to health problems of its own. But “too much” can vary from person to person. For example, substance abuse can cause cardiovascular issues, so addiction survivors would want to start out with a low-intensity routine, under the supervision of their doctor. Likewise, novice exercisers, or people who are generally sedentary, should start out easy and build up their fitness routine gradually. If you notice changes in your mood, soreness that won’t go away, sleep disturbances, or increased infections, you might be overtraining. Try cutting back on the exercise a bit.
Finding Balance With the Wheel of Life
The Wheel of Life is an excellent tool to help you see which areas of your well-being need attention. Draw a circle with 8 spokes, each representing a different part of your life. For example, you could use health, fitness, relationships, career, finances, personal growth, spirituality, and emotional well-being. Label each spoke with a one to ten scale, where the outside of the circle is 10. Rate each area by marking its spoke at the relevant point, and then join the dots. If your fitness is 8 or higher, and other areas are low, consider cutting back on some workouts and using that time to work on other areas. Likewise, if your fitness is low, it might be advisable to make more time for exercise.
Multitasking Your Fitness Routine
Rather than cutting back on workout time to pursue other goals, another approach is multitasking. Exercise doesn’t have to mean slogging away alone on a treadmill. If your relationships score is low, invite your friends to train with you, join group activities like dancing and martial arts, or take up a team sport. If your spirituality score is low, switch a couple of workouts for tai chi or yoga classes, which are part low-intensity exercise, part meditation. If your emotional well-being is low, try hiking since spending time in nature can improve symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety.
Exercise gives a lot of bang for its buck in terms of physical and mental health benefits. While people with certain medical conditions need to be careful about how much exercise they do, for most people, it’s a key part of a healthy self-care routine. However, it shouldn’t be the only part. Make sure you don’t do too much, don’t do too little, and look after the other areas of your life, too.