When you’re feeling down, stressed, or things seem to be getting a little too much, working out may be the last thing you feel like doing. But, it’s probably the best thing for you!
Be active: for a healthy body, mind and spirit
Studies have consistently shown that any form of exercise can contribute enormously to your mental well-being. And when you consider that a healthy body will help to support a healthy mind, it makes sense really.
It’s good for the brain
Put simply, physical exercise is good for your brain. It has an effect on the neurochemicals dopamine and serotonin. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, which is why they affect your mood and thinking. By increasing the levels of these chemicals, exercise can lift your mood and make you feel more relaxed. Studies have shown that exercise also stimulates the growth and development of new brain cells, and it seems to reduce the harmful changes in the brain caused by stress.
It can help you sleep better
Sleeplessness tends to go hand in hand with mental health problems and it can greatly exacerbate existing conditions. That’s why getting a good night’s sleep is extremely important if you have poor mental health – and exercise is a great way to help you sleep well. As little as half an hour’s aerobic exercise during the day can help you fall asleep quicker and more deeply. The ideal time to exercise is between 6 hours and 1 hour before you go to bed. But be warned, exercising too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect and stimulate the body into wakefulness.
It’s an opportunity to socialise
Physical activity is a great way to socialise, meet new people and get support if you do it with others.
It can be an escape
Immersing yourself in physical activity can provide you with a distraction from negative thoughts and a chance to have new experiences. Exercise can help you to clear your head, as well as provide you with a focus in life and motivation.
It can give you an energy boost
When you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which help the body deal with pain or stress. This release of endorphins, often referred to as a “runner’s high” can lead to a positive and energising outlook on life.
Other health benefits
As well as helping to manage mental health, regular exercise can prevent other medical conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke and certain types of cancers.
As for what kind of exercise you do, it really doesn’t matter. Choose something you enjoy and try to do it as often as possible!
The 5 S’s of training with a mate
Ever wondered why people say 'fitness is more fun with friends’ or talk about the benefits of exercising with a mate? Fitness specialist Alisa Wells shares the answer as well as tips to maximise your exercise time with friends…
Share your goals, fun and achievement with a workout buddy. Sharing will help you both be more committed to reaching them!
Write down your goals together and keep them in a prominent place you’ll see, like your phone background or computer screensaver. Focus on the things that will help you reach those goals and avoid writing in ‘absolutes’. Try these for starters:
- We will make a commitment to exercise 3 times each week;
- We will try something new once a month; and
- We will be the positive influence, support and encouragement for each other.
An ‘accountability partner’ will help you achieve the most important habit for fitness success – showing up! Meeting a friend at a set time for workouts will help you form a regular exercise routine. An ‘accountability partner’ also helps when things go off the rails, keep each other motivated and on track. It’s like having a personal trainer for each other!
Workouts are a great opportunity to catch up. Plan to catch up at the gym instead of for coffee. Create your best self, stay in touch and meet new friends at the gym all at the same time!
Studies show that mixing your social circles with your interests and aspirations provides positive outcomes towards the habits you wish to form. “Want to run faster? Run with faster people!”
Keep things interesting! As your health and fitness increases you can add new exercises to your program. Training with a mate is a great way to step outside your comfort zone to try new things. Try a fitness class or go in your first fun run - overcoming small (or not so small) challenges will help you feel even more accomplished and confident with your health and fitness.
Share Your Success
Most importantly, acknowledge your progress on a weekly basis. Things like a new PB, a challenge overcome, and the effort made to fit your exercise into a busy schedule should all be celebrated. Sharing your successes reminds you why you started in the first place and keeps you motivated to keep going for bigger and better things.
A beginner's guide to lap swimming
If you’re after a ‘whole-body’ workout there’s no better option than swimming.
It targets your core muscles, arms and legs, and it improves strength, tone and flexibility. It is fantastic cardiovascular exercise and is extremely low impact. But many people avoid swimming because, well, it’s just too difficult: they get tired after a couple of laps and can’t go on. But if you can swim one lap there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to swim 20 laps, even 50 laps or more.
Here are a few tips that will help you build up your swimming stamina within weeks
Stick with it
Don’t be deterred by the fact that you can only do a few laps to begin with. Swimming uses a lot of muscles you won’t be used to exercising, and controlled breathing provides an added challenge. But you’ll quickly find your muscles strengthening and your breathing becoming easier. If you stick with it you should see rapid advances in your first few weeks.
Use a kickboard
Because you may only be able to do a few laps in the beginning, kickboards will enable to you complete a full session. They help you develop your core and leg muscles while getting a good cardiovascular workout. Use them alternately with pull buoys, light floats that sit between your thighs and exercise your upper body. As your strength and fitness progress, you’ll rely less and less on the kickboard and pull buoy.
Vary your stroke
If you usually swim freestyle and find yourself getting tired, switch to breaststroke for a couple of laps, or even backstroke. Varying strokes not only helps you keep swimming when you get tired, it also provides a different muscular workout. Don’t worry that you’re going slower by swimming different strokes – it’s still an excellent workout!
Get the right equipment
A decent pair of goggles is essential for swimming in heavily chlorinated public pools. Make sure you get a pair that fits well and does not allow water to seep in. Swimming caps cut down on drag, especially for people with long hair. They also protect your hair from the damaging effects of chlorine. Women should wear a one-piece swim suit rather than a bikini, which does not provide adequate support. And men should wear speedos or tight-fitting swim pants rather than board shorts, which create unnecessary drag.
It’s important to stretch your muscles and loosen your joints before you start swimming. Cramp is a common affliction for swimmers and stretching beforehand is the best way to prevent it.
Two good warm ups include ankle circling and rolling back and forth from your toes to heels, slowly waking up the lower leg area. Make sure you also stretch your calf and hamstring muscles and do a few gentle stretches to your upper arms.
Even though you’re surrounded by water you will still perspire. Make sure you drink plenty of water in the hour or two before you go swimming. You may also consider leaving a bottle of water or sports drink beside the pool so you can pause to rehydrate during your swim. Apart from being important for overall health, staying hydrated will help you maintain energy levels and avoid cramp.
It’s not a race, there’s no need to push too hard. Swimming at a slower pace is just as good for you as swimming quickly. Make sure you choose a lane that is appropriate for the pace you want to swim at and take your time. The most important thing is increasing the amount of time you spend in the pool and the number of laps you’re able to complete. It really doesn’t matter how long it takes you.
UNSW Fitness & Aquatic Centre
The UNSW Fitness & Aquatic Centre offers a whole range of fitness facilities and programs for all ages and abilities. Facilities include:
- Health club
- Indoor heated pool
- Group fitness classes
- Small group training sessions
- Indoor sports courts
- Steam room
- Weights area
- Change rooms
- Spin room
- Free monthly member breakfasts
The Centre also offers some amazing discounts on gym memberships for students living on campus.
Call 9385 4881 or visit them in person for more information or click here to visit their website.
Please also visit the UNSW Fitness & Aquatic Centre Facebook page to find out about current specials or deals, and stay up-to-date with everything fitness related!