I Always Hated Exercise – Until I Saw How Much it Helped My Anxiety

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Monica Drake

| 4 min read

Monica Drake poses for a photo in her gym.
As someone who doesn’t have a single athletic bone in her body, I have always hated exercising. And I can trace this hatred for exercise way back to elementary and middle school, during my first experiences with the dreaded gym class.
Throughout my school years, I was out of breath finishing the mandatory mile run, and I was almost always picked last for teams when we played sports. This really affected my mental health, my opinion of myself, and my relationship with exercise and athletics into adulthood. Even now, in my mid-30s, I will often avoid events that include physical activities – or sit on the sidelines – because all I can think is, “I’m just going to embarrass myself if I try!”
So, it feels weird that now, I’m the one talking about exercise. And I know, you may hate listening to people talk about exercise – but hear me out!
I recently started an exercise routine for the first time in years – thanks to the inspiration of making sure I fit into my wedding dress this fall. And I’ve come to realize that exercise is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Maybe, for you, you enjoy playing in a softball or volleyball league or taking a kickboxing class with your friends. That will never be me – and that’s okay. There are so many different ways to exercise and be healthy.
What’s really important is that you just spend time moving every day. Try different forms of exercise to find what you enjoy doing. For me, I have found that I enjoy using the elliptical, the stationary bikes, and the weight machines at the gym – often closing my eyes while listening to an audiobook or playing music on my headphones to pretend like the rest of the world has disappeared.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, as well as two days of muscle-strengthening activity. A few benefits come from doing this – such as reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several common cancers, and, overall, increasing your life expectancy.
An immediate change I’ve noticed since I began regularly exercising is that it’s improved my mental health. Sometimes, just taking a break to walk around the block or dance around the house when I’m feeling overwhelmed can noticeably reduce my stress. Even more so, after an hour-long workout session, I come home feeling like the weight of my everyday anxiety has been lifted from my shoulders. I have more energy, less tension and I just feel happier in general.
This is because, according to the Mayo Clinic, when I exercise, I’m releasing endorphins, or feel-good hormones, which trigger feelings of euphoria and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise also serves as a distraction from negative thoughts, increases your self-confidence, improves your concentration and motivation, and helps you sleep better at night.
For those of you getting started on your exercise journey – especially if you hate exercise as much as I did – start slow, make yourself a schedule and set attainable goals.
For me, I go to the gym for an hour after work every other day, and then walk outside for 30 minutes to an hour on my lunch break on the opposing days. I keep track of my workout days in my planner as a way to hold myself accountable. I also confided in my fiancé about my goals so he’ll call me out if I decide to lounge on the couch instead of exercising. And, if I do miss a day, I don’t beat myself up because I know that, sometimes, life gets in the way. Instead, I consider it a rest day – and get back out there tomorrow.
It takes some time but, when you keep to your schedule, exercising will become a habit – one that’s automatic instead of a chore. That’s what happened to me, and now I can finally say something I never thought I would say before – that I no longer hate exercising. In fact, I can say with confidence that, now, I actually love it.
Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Monica Drake

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