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How to make exercise more enjoyable? Here are five tips

Think back to when you were a child and movement was instinctive and often mixed with pure joy.

Maybe it was running with your sister and dad to the front door, jumping into bed with friends during a sleepover, playing a team sport, riding your bike through the park.

For many, the link between exercise and joy was severed and forgotten somewhere along the path to adulthood, displaced by the realities and responsibilities of daily life. Movement may have turned into something more obligatory, as we need to do it to optimize our health or get in shape. Or it may have become too time-consuming. For some, it may even have become painful due to injury, illness, or the passage of time.

We forgo movement at our own peril, and to the detriment of our well-being. Studies have found that movement—and its more challenging and intentional cousin, exercise—is not only beneficial for physical health, but is also closely associated with mental state and mood.

“I always say that exercise is like an intravenous dose of hope,” psychologist Kelly McGonigal told the Chief Medical Correspondent of CNN , Dr. Sanjay Gupta, on his Chasing Life podcast recently. “And it’s any form of movement that you’re willing to do with any part of your body that you can still move.”

McGonigal is the author of “The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage.” A group fitness instructor and speaker at Stanford University, she has used movement and exercise throughout her life to manage her own anxiety and depression.

The psychologist said that exercise allows the creation and release of “hope” molecules, technically called myosins, during muscle contractions — for example, when we exercise or even just move. Some of these myosins may have antidepressant effects.

“Our muscles do more than just move our bones or stabilize our skeleton,” she said. “Our muscles are almost like endocrine organs. They make these molecules that can be released into the bloodstream, which then travel throughout the body and affect all of our organs. Some of these can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the brain, including mood, mental health and brain health.”

Exercise allows you to see your body as an ally, according to McGonigal.

“I think that’s one of the coolest parts of movement and exercise science, especially because it allows us to feel like our body is our friend,” she said. “It’s our partner, not something we’re trying to fix or control through movement.”

McGonigal said many other brain chemicals are released during exercise, which can affect someone’s mental state, resulting in, for example, a runner’s high, a flow state, and even euphoria.

“There are actually many different types of brain states you can experience in movement; it’s not a single ‘thing,’” she said. You can listen to the full discussion here.

What can you do to access joy during exercise and movement? McGonigal has these five tips. see below:

Take your workout to the streets

Go to nature.

“We know that mindful forms of movement, like moving outdoors in nature, tend to put the brain in a state of greater awareness of the present moment, which looks like vitality and connection to life,” McGonigal said.

“People often feel relief from self-talk and stress and worry. It’s changing which systems of the brain are most active and putting you in a state that feels like meditation.”

Turn up the volume

Put on your favorite playlist and start moving.

“If you’re doing a workout where you’re listening to music that you love, that’s high energy, you’re moving to the beat, and you’re doing things that really get your heart rate up. A lot of times it’s more like euphoria,” she said. “You feel amazing, and you get those endorphins, and that brain chemistry also really helps you feel connected to other people.”

Join the group

Being social helps you exercise.

“Make the movement social. We know that people form friendships and supportive communities through movement, whether it’s strength training or running,” McGonigal said.

These days, who couldn’t use another friend or source of support? Exercise also helps you be more social.

“People who exercise report feeling less lonely, they report having better relationships with others and — for reasons ranging from biochemical and how the brain chemistry of exercise prepares you to be more social — to being able to connect better with others,” McGonigal said.

“If you are socially anxious and you exercise, at the end of that workout, you will almost be like a more extroverted version of yourself.”

Back to basics

Find something you really enjoy doing.

“Think about positive experiences you’ve had with movement in your life,” McGonigal said. “Maybe it’ll bring you back to something you miss or find a new way to do it.”

Have a mindset of gratitude

While you’re moving, find ways to appreciate your body for being able to move, rather than monitoring it.

Adopt a “mindset adjustment of, ‘Wow, body — that was amazing!’ Or ‘Thank you, body, for having the energy to allow me to do this,’” McGonigal said.

6 tips to get out of a sedentary lifestyle and start exercising

*With information from Eryn Mathewson, CNN Audio

Source: CNN Brasil

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