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  1. "Just do it" This is a great phrase for those already "doing it" and are feeling a moment of laziness. The phrase backfires, however, with people who aren't in the "action" stage of behaviour change. "It's because change doesn't begin with action", remarks James Prochaska, psychologist and head of the Health Promotion Partnership at the University of Rhode Island. He says that there's more anxiety around change than there needs to be. That's because there's been so much pressure to act-- regardless if someone is ready for it. In his book Changing for Good, Dr. Prochaska outlines the stages of behaviour change. "By consciously dealing with change in stages...it's easier to apply appropriate strategies at the appropriate times". 1. Pre-Contemplation Stage Pre-Contemplators aren't willing to consider making a change ("I've never exercised, and I have no desire to start now"). Strategies: Consciousness-raising activities are important--a doctor's warning about a patients health risks that are due in part to lack of physical activity; a life event such as the birth of a grandchild or one's 50th birthday; reading the Surgeon General's report, Physical Activity and Health. 2. Contemplation Stage Contemplators know they need to change and begin to think seriously about it. The problem is that people can get stuck in this stage for years. Some people wait for the magic moment (you need to make the moment) or engage in wishful thinking (hoping to get healthier without changing behaviour). Strategies: Write down the benefits you hope to obtain from physical activity. Next list the perceived roadblocks and how to get past each one. More consciousness-raising is in order, not to convince you that you need to change, but to propel you into the next stage. 3. Preparation Stage Most people in this stage are planning to take action within a month" says Dr. Prochaska. "They think more about the pros of a new behaviour than about the cons of the old one." Strategies: Develop a firm, detailed plan for action. Set a date to begin and make this public. When making your plan, it's important to choose an activity that you'll like and that will fit in your schedule. Time saving tips: record your TV programs. If you watch 2 hours per day, you'll save 1/2 hour in commercials--use this for your physical activity. How about getting more organized with your meal planning and go shopping only once a week--you know what to do with that extra time! 4. Action Stage People in this stage have begun to make the changes for which they have planned. It's easy to let perceived excuses turn into roadblocks, then to relapses and then a move back to the Contemplation Stage. (See related articles Beating the Dropout Odds and Staying on Track.) Strategies: It's a good idea to do your physical activity with others, at least until the behavior becomes a habit. Round up co-workers, friends, or relatives and form a walking group (even if it's only you and a partner). Make a ground rule that the only excuses for not attending are being sick or injured. (When travelling, take your walking shoes and walk wherever you are). By the time you are in the Action Stage, the phrase "Just do it" will have more meaning for you. Article by: Deborah Mullen
  2. Exercise as an antidote to depression and anxiety is not a new concept. In the 18th century Scotland, doctors in mental hospitals prescribed heavy farm chores as "the best medicine" for their patients and documented marked improvements in mood and behavior. Now scientists are studying the link between exercise and mood changes at close range and coming up with some fascinating results. One expert in the field says "exercise is clearly associated with mental-health benefits." And moderate exercisers show lowered blood-pressure levels and a resultant positive mood. The key is moderate exercise, performed a minimum of 30 minutes, three or four times a week. Brisk walking, swimming, lifting weights, and bicycling - all achieve good results. People who exercise regularly, even at something as simple as walking or bicycling, are more flexible. They experience less stress on the muscles and joints when they do bend down the wrong way. Conditioned muscles recover faster, too. It's the couch potato who hauls himself erect one Saturday afternoon to rake the leaves or shovel snow who has trouble. The big problem we all face these days is living a stressful life. All families seem to be too busy to sit down together and share the joys and pleasures of life. The little things that once mattered are no longer important and now there is a race for more money, more time and more material possessions. By using simple relaxation techniques, exercising and making changes in our lifestyles, we can manage stress and take control of your lives! Once you have become aware of stress, it's time to relax! There are many techniques for relaxing (and no one method is better than another), but the most basic is deep breathing. One of the body's automatic reactions to stress is rapid, shallow breathing. Breathing slowly and deeply is one of the ways you can "turn off" your stress reaction and "turn on" your relaxation response. Still another relaxation technique that can help you reduce stress is "clearing your mind." Since your stress response is a physical and emotional interaction, giving yourself a mental "break" can help relax your body as well. When you clear your mind, you try to concentrate on one pleasant thought, work, or image and let the rest of your worries slip away. A short and quiet walk can do wonders and just a walk around the block will clear your head and often give you a new spurt of energy. Muscle and joint aches and pains are a common complaint for many of us, living as we do in a sedentary, high-stress society. The cliché warning us to "use it or lose it" isn't far off the mark. Our bodies pay the price for long hours slumped at our desks or nestled in a soft chair watching television. And if you think some of our aches and pains are just another consequence of ageing, you're wrong - more often, it's a result of inactivity and weaker muscles. Doctors now say that walking is one of the best exercises. It helps the total circulation of blood throughout the body, and thus has a direct effect on your overall feeling of health. There are things such a aerobics, jogging, swimming and many other exercises which will benefit a person both physically and mentally. Researchers agree that exercise helps to ease anxiety and lift spirits.
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