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How to Make and Keep a Simple Exercise Habit

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

For Trauma Survivors Who Don't Know Where to Start (or for anybody, really)

I'm a fitness buff. I believe in staying fit, because it helps me feel better, both in body and mind. But I've slid in and out of exercise habits during times of stress or depression and anxiety. During those times when I've been down, getting the motivation to start back up has sometimes seemed insurmountable, even when I know exercise makes me feel better. As someone who has experienced trauma, I understand that it's sometimes hard to get started with any kind of movement, or get back into a form of exercise you once enjoyed.

Even though we've been told a thousand times that physical activity is important, and we know in our bones that it is important, it can still be hard to start or keep an exercise habit. We know that exercising helps keep our energy levels up, which can improve productivity at home or at work. It can help us stay healthy as we age, modulate blood sugar, lower blood pressure, improve strength and mobility and flexibility, and even help with sleep, mood and mental health. The thing we most need it can help with, and yet, sometimes we can't up enough oomph to get moving. Why is this?

I can give you a few reasons off the top of my head:

  • We have started and quit programs before and we don't want to "fail again"

  • We look lumpy in our workout clothes

  • We think we don't have time

  • We have never exercised before have no idea where to begin

  • The cost of gym membership is too high

  • Heck, the cost of workout clothes is too high

  • We're tired

  • We're overwhelmed

  • We feel like it wouldn't matter anyway, so why bother

I can think of twenty more reasons, and you probably can too. But because exercise is so good at improving mental health, it's one of the most important things you can do in the self-care realm, especially when you are walking a trauma recovery journey. I want to encourage you to start exercising and keep it up to the point where you develop a routine you can count on, even if it is very mild exercise that make gym rats point and stare.

In case data is the kind of thing that gives you hope, here is a link to a study that says exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood, and by improving cognitive function. The study also shows that exercise has been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.