I exercise for my sanity. Any less than 3 times a week and I feel unmotivated, depressed and increasingly dark. After a run or a walk, it’s like my brain receives a boost of happy neurochemicals (well, this is actually what happens). Exercise is my antidepressant. (Now, if you’re actually depressed, this may not be enough to lift you out of major depression, but it certainly will help, along with other things).
This is not actually a high priority on my list but I put it together with Sanity because it rhymes. Exercise keeps you looking good – your muscles are toned, you look great (because you’re sane!), it keeps excess kilos at bay.
I sleep much better when I get regular exercise – my head hits the pillow and I’m away. This has marvellous benefits beyond just feeling refreshed – it balances out your hormones, particularly reducing stress hormones, and keeping weight off. Sleep more, weigh less? Yes please!
It may sound counter-intuitive, but exercise increases energy levels rather than depletes them. Not exercising for a few days makes me feel incredibly sluggish, as though my system has virtually ground to a halt. People ask how I can have the energy to exercise and work and parent but I would answer, I have the energy because I exercise.
The holy grail of parenting. Going for a run is one of the best forms of me-time I could think of. I choose a podcast and savour the 30 minutes of not having to deal with tricky revisions on my latest chapter or misbehaving toddlers. I come home feeling pretty good too. I love having massages but I rarely get them because a regular run is a better form of me-time.
If you’re like me, you probably spend a great deal of time indoors (my department, in particular, has decided to house PhD students in an airless box that has the atmosphere of a dungeon). Getting outdoors is literally a breath of fresh air! I like to run around nature, like a park, and the green of the trees rejuvenates my weary eyes and head.
You can eat a little bit more (but not too much! A 30 minute run will only burn about 200 calories – that’s just a small yoghurt), unless you’re trying to lose weight.
You might need to be a regular exerciser for a while before this happens to you (yes I admit it’s painful when you get started and you’re very unfit but your fitness catches up quickly, so don’t give up!) I have the most amazing epiphanies when I run. Solutions to major life dilemmas, a new idea for the Discussion chapter in my thesis, an idea for a new project or blog. It’s like my brain starts sorting out the mess in my head and arranges it in startlingly vivid, orderly and logical patterns. I go home with a fresh brain full of brilliant ideas and insights.
I know that I’m modelling healthy behaviour for my children, and that in the future they will know that mummy used to run three times a week so perhaps I should get off the couch and do something too. That parental example will be ingrained in their brains and I will have given them an advantage, not a disadvantage.