Why Your Fitness Routine Needs Self-Care (Guest Contributor Sheila Olson)

 Photo Credit:  Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Why Your Fitness Routine Needs Self-Care

By Guest Contributor Sheila Olson

Exercise is a key component of well-being, and everyone should know how important daily physical activity is in our lives. It makes us healthier and happier. Those who exercise have lower risks of premature death and avoid a host of physical ailments from diabetes to joint problems. But fitness on its own is an incomplete prescription for health. Adding self-care is way to maximize the benefits of exercise and also balance your life in a healthy way.

What, exactly, is self-care?

Self-care is a relatively new term for an age-old concept. At its very basic sense, self-care is any purposeful action aimed at relieving pain and discomfort and adding relaxation and serenity. Medical professionals define it as incorporating healthy lifestyle changes and stress management techniques. It is accomplished through various means. Self-care can involve something as simple as a quiet walk, or a lavish spa treatment. It can, and should, be tailored to your particular needs so that self-care complements other treatments and programs such as an exercise routine.

Self-care comes in several varieties, including:

 -      Physical. When we take steps to make ourselves feel good through massage, yoga, or a good night’s sleep, we can improve our effectiveness in other areas. Physical health flourishes in comfort.

-      Emotional. Working out and stretching muscles may make us feel great, physically, but if we are burdened with stress, we’ll never achieve a desired level of happiness. Self-care includes finding what we enjoy and incorporating those activities in our lives. This can include hobbies, art and music appreciation, and creative outlets.

-      Spiritual. For some, a connection to a higher power helps make sense of a confusing and complex world. Attending to spiritual questions and outlets can help achieve a great deal of balance. One way to include self-care in the comfort of your own home is to set up a meditation space or room. Try to find a quiet placewith a view of nature. Pick a time when you will be free from distractions and can sit, uninterrupted, while focusing on your breath and the sounds of nature. Doing this for a few minutes per day is all it takes to meditate, get centered, and feel a deeper sense of spiritual connection. 

-      Intellectual. Using our brains is good for our health and emotional well-being. Learning - even at an advanced age - helps stave off memory loss, and help keeps us vital, but intellectual self-care has a role even in a young person. This may mean taking time to read more often, pursuing a degree, or just doing brain-teaser puzzles. These mental activities can give us feelings of self-worth that are crucial to balance.

-      Social. Our relationships and social circles affect our well-being. Avoiding toxic relationships, pursuing love and spending time with friends can all be essential to overall well being.

How do we benefit from self-care?

 When we add self-care into our lives, we more broadly focus on ourselves. By taking a holistic, or whole-body (and mind) approach to our well-being, we can greatly improve the impact of our actions. And it improves fitness through motivation, lifestyle change and exercise recovery. When we are tuned into our physical, emotional and other self-care needs, we find that fitness and healthy eating, for example, seem to fall into place. Much like a doctor doesn’t target symptoms but an underlying cause, self-care helps you combine the benefits of various positive activities to develop tailored well-being.

Self-care and fitness combine to battle addiction

For those in recovery, feeling good emotionally and physically can help stay on the road to sobriety. The causes of addiction are complex and different for each person, but the rewards of exercise have been likened to the euphoria of substance use. The difference, of course, is that fitness improves health while substance abuse degrades us physically and emotionally. Fitness and self-care have been key to recovery and can help prevent relapse. For some, since successfully adopting a fitness routine means completely changing their lives forever - not for 30 days or six months - self-care and fitness have been effective long-term roads to sobriety.

Fitness is a well-known component of health. Adding self-care can make exercise more effective. When our bodies feel better, and our minds are clearer, we are more likely to incorporate healthy choices as a lifestyle change.