By Catherine Wachira, PMHNP
Over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly led to dramatic changes in our lifestyle. Much of this change stemmed from the need to conduct work and school from home since the start of the pandemic in 2020. However, even as the pandemic nears the end, many are continuing to work remotely, and some children are continuing to home school. Increased time at home leads to decreased physical activity. With mental health in mind, how are we impacted by limited physical activity? Studies have shown that without adequate physical activity, mood disorders, stress, depression, and sleep problems may arise and/or worsen (Sosso & Raouafi, 2017)
Therefore, we must prioritize physical activity. What is the best way to stay physically active in the midst of our hectic lives? Find an activity that you enjoy and in turn will adhere to consistently. For starters, try brisk walking or jogging. Jogging is an excellent method of reducing stress, which may be caused by various factors such as long work hours, stressful relationships, demanding careers, or even forgetting to practice self-care (Kim & Bae, 2018). With multiple physical health benefits, such as increasing oxygen supply to the brain and promoting the removal of waste, jogging also releases endorphins that keep mood elevated and reduce stress levels (Kim & Bae, 2018).
Take your walks or jog outside for an added bonus. Outdoor activities include exposure to vitamin D, connection to nature, and no membership fees. Jogging locations may include parks or nature trails that are close to home. Google Maps and alltrails.com are great resources to find places to jog no matter where you are. If you live close to Downtown Houston, check out the beautiful parks at Buffalo Bayou. Or quite simply, take a stroll around your very own neighborhood for the utmost convenience.
Never jogged or practiced brisk walking? The key is taking baby steps—start at a pace you are comfortable with to avoid injury and gradually work up to jogging for longer distances. Did you know that you can also go to a shoe store that scans your feet to determine the type of shoes that best fits you for jogging? Be sure to set yourself up for success before you begin your new endeavor. Consider investing in a fitness tracker, which can act as your own accountability partner and personal cheerleader to keep you motivated. Most fitness trackers allow you to set your daily step goals and never fail to congratulate you once you reach your daily goal. Have kids? Children may also be part of routine jogging or be given the option of biking in safe areas while adults jog.
In summary, jogging is an excellent form of self-care to reduce stress levels. Always start slowly and adhere to your exercise regimen, even on the days that you lack motivation. Finally, change it up—try jogging in different areas for a change in scenery to make the routine more fun!
Etindele Sosso FA., Raouafi S. (2017) An Overview of Positive Interaction between Exercise and Mental Health. Journal of Neurology Neuroscience. Vol. 8 No. 4:215Bong-Young Kim, Myung-Jin Bae. (2018). A Study on the Effect of Jogging on Stress Reduction. International Journal of Engineering Research and Technology. ISSN 0974-3154 Volume 11, Number 9 pp. 1363-1370