Grateful: in fitness and in health

March 6, 2024

Photo by Vlad Bagacian from Pixabay

Arjan Arenas describes what regular fresh air and exercise do for his wellbeing: and what they can do for yours

I’ve got a lot of things to feel grateful for. I have a roof over my head, a loving family, and plenty of friends. However, there are also plenty of small things, which could be easily taken for granted, which I also feel grateful for. One of those is having plenty of greenspace around where I live in north London, where I can get some fresh air and exercise. And also having the good health to be able to make the most of that greenspace.

I began jogging during the early months of the pandemic. As gyms were closed and outdoor activity became increasingly restricted, I began jogging round the streets where I live. Building in a regular jogging break into my day allowed me to focus better while working.

I later branched out into jogging through a nearby park to rest my eyes on the surrounding greenspace. Even after gyms reopened and lockdown slowly ended, I continue to go jogging in the afternoons, when I can, to get a regular dose of fresh air during the day.

It’s important to stay motivated, even if you have to take a break for a while

I’m actually more motivated to jog than I am to go to the gym; I don’t go as often as I should. Unlike at the gym, jogging allows me to get some fresh air as well as exercise, so it feels less of a chore.

One problem is keeping motivated to exercise when I’ve been feeling ill. On the one hand, if you aren’t feeling 100%, it’s obviously best not to push yourself physically. On the other hand, it’s important to stay motivated, even if you have to take a break for a while. If I’m getting over a cold and I haven’t been jogging for a while, I’ll ask myself, “If not now, when?” That usually gets me going again.

When I am motivated to go to the gym, it’s by a desire to get into better shape and gain more muscle, which not only improves my physical health, but which I hope will also improve my mental wellbeing.

However, I try to set myself realistic goals and not become too preoccupied with exercise, at the risk of putting pressure on myself. Occasionally, I bump into people I went to school with at my local gym, which offers an opportunity for a quickfire catch-up.

Once I’ve been jogging, I feel much better able to concentrate on my work at home, and much more refreshed. It’s also always nice to see neighbours while out. I was particularly grateful for these opportunities to briefly catch up with them during the pandemic. This was at a time when socialising was severely restricted, which had a hugely detrimental impact on many people’s mental health.

I try to have a lot of fruit throughout the day, which is especially important during the autumn and winter months

When jogging or doing any kind of exercise, you release endorphins and similar chemicals, which relieve stress and make you feel more at ease. I certainly feel happier after running, and feeling happier can only be a good thing for your mental and physical health.

I also sometimes go hiking with old friends from uni, and aside from enjoying fresh air and visiting large greenspaces and the countryside, I often sleep much better afterwards.

To maintain good physical and mental health, it’s obviously also important to eat well and get enough sleep. I try to have a lot of fruit throughout the day, which is especially important during the autumn and winter months, as eating plenty of citrus fruit helps to stave of catching a cold. Additionally, I eat a banana each morning for an energy boost to complete the morning’s work.

Despite being motivated to do so, I’ve been struggling to get to bed early, which can lead to me oversleeping the next morning. After three years of university followed by a master’s degree, I’ve recently got back into reading for pleasure, which is an excellent way to relax, and thus maintain wellbeing. I’m now trying to incentivise myself to go to bed earlier so that I can curl up with a good book before going to sleep.

Whenever you’re going through a hard time, as we all do, think of the little things in life that make you happy, that allow you to maintain a good standard of physical and mental health. As difficult as it can be at times, it’s important to be able to see the woods for the trees – or any other part of the greenspace!

Arjan Arenas studied history at King’s College London, then completed a master’s in the history of international relations at the London School of Economics. He has worked with Exposure since January 2018, and is particularly interested in history and politics, as well as books, film and television. Outside of his work with Exposure, Arjan has written reviews of films and television programmes, as well as theatre productions in London’s West End.

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