Just Do It – The Best Exercise Tips from Greta the PT-Psychologist

Do you need practical tools to maintain your exercise routines over time? I suspect that, like most people, you’ve already heard that regular physical activity is a cornerstone of both mental and physical health. In this blog, the PT-Psychologist Greta Wester, will share her best exercise tips with you!

Exercise increases your brain’s release of dopamine and norepinephrine, just like ADHD meds do. This can bring additional benefits for us with ADHD, such as reduced symptoms of restlessness, impulsivity and improved focus and concentration. 

The paradox? Well, the very same ADHD symptoms that exercise relieves also make regular exercise particularly challenging to achieve.

Here are some reminders of why physical activity is worth prioritizing, not only for yourself but also for those around you. Then, there are practical suggestions on how to maintain the habit of exercise over time, even as motivation and daily routines change.

So why should I prioritize exercise? 

As usual, studies specifically exploring ADHD in women are scarce, but more generally, we know that physical activity, among other things:

  • Makes it easier to fall asleep and improves sleep quality.
  • Is a potent stress reliever!
  • Reduces risk for or relieves symptoms of, mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
  • Increases self-esteem and overall wellness.
  • Enhances cognitive functions such as memory and focus.

In addition, regular exercise has numerous long-term benefits like reduced risk of somatic conditions such as dementia, stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

There are so many different types of exercise. Which is the best? 

At the risk of sounding like a cliché, the quick answer is the best exercise is the exercise that gets done! 

That you exercise is much more important than what exercise you do. 

The goal is to move around in one capacity or another so that your heart has to pump slightly harder than usual to oxygenate your active muscles. WHO recommends at least 2.5 hours of vigorous exercise each week, along with strength training two days a week. 

But again, if you start from zero, all the work that gets done is a win for your mind and body!

Okay, I get it! How do I incorporate exercise into my daily life then?

  1. If you have everyday routines that work for you: slip exercise into those routines! And let your physical activity become a part of them!

    If you wash your hair two evenings a week – could it be a deal with yourself to go for a jog, do a workout on YouTube or do as many burpees as you can in 7 minutes before jumping into the shower? Win-win?

  2. Do you know someone who has managed to fit exercise into their daily routine? Ride on their wave! Whether it’s your colleague who sneaks off during lunch, your sister who does Thai boxing or your friend who always posts about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Ask them to kindly nag you to join in!

  3. Is there something else you want to prioritize in life? Tackle two birds with one stone! If you want to spend more time on your relationships – it could mean taking a crawling course with a friend, a salsa class with your daughter or learning a martial art with your mother. If you want to spend more time outdoors, in free nature – join a local orienteering club.

    Or maybe it’s just about crowning the rowing machine at the gym as your throne while listening to the best podcasts on a subject that interests you?

I’ve started enthusiastically a hundred times, but it never lasts over time…

  1. Always be one step ahead and have a plan for the lows! Involve someone who will kindly nudge you to get up and about after that long-lasting cold and plan for how you will fit exercise during the holidays. 

    Anticipate periods where energy and motivation will be lacking and have a plan in place for them. Taking help from someone close to you or a trainer is not cheating, it’s just smart!

  2. Set a moderately long-term goal that you are motivated to achieve! Is there a tantalizing thought? Being able to squat with your partner on your back, do a proper push-up or run a certain distance? 

    Get inspiration and support from someone with experience. Many gyms offer consultations with a personal trainer in the membership. Or a friend who has accomplished the things you aspire to. Ask them to help you make a plan for how and how often you should train to achieve your goal!

  3. Involve others to make it easier to get over the natural resistance everyone feels before exercise. And to make it harder for you to skip sessions! Choose a venue that you pass regularly to make it easy to slip in. Change into workout clothes in the morning or at the end of your workday.

    Keep a calendar on the fridge where you and your children can place a nice sticker every day or week when you meet your training goals!

Okay, that was a lot of information and many tools. I’ve already forgotten half of it!
Can you summarize, please?

Sure thing!

The take-home message: here is that exercise is an investment in yourself that yields both short- and long-term returns in physical as well as mental well-being and daily functioning.  As long as you can increase the intensity of how your heart pumps to meet the needs of your active, working muscles it doesn’t matter what you do. 

And to sustain it long term: whether you want to exercise with someone or do it alone, involve others in the process! Asking for help, setting goals together and talking about your training. Those are all factors that will increase the likelihood of turning the spiral from your ADHD and stress hindering exercise to exercise reducing ADHD symptoms and stress!

Greta Wester is a licensed psychologist who works both clinically and is pursuing a doctorate in addiction. Since 2011, she has led group training sessions and has worked as a personal trainer since 2013. Currently, she is involved in Braining, which aims to incorporate physical activity as a complement to medical and psychotherapy in psychiatry. She works at Rosa Skrot, Sweden’s largest gym for women.

In addition to her focus on both physical and mental health, Greta also has a strong climate commitment.

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