The Insider's Guide to Healthy Hawaii: Exercise Is Mental

Medically reviewed in June 2022

Did you make resolutions to lose weight and hit the gym with a new exercise routine this year? Even the best routine in the world won’t be effective if you’re not in the right frame of mind.

According to fitness specialist Cora Piliwale, some people focus too much on the physical and ignore the emotional and mental aspects of exercise. If this happens, people have a hard time creating positive attitudes toward exercise, which makes it easy to slack off or quit all together.

“When I ask people why they exercise, they usually say something like ‘I’m trying to lose weight’ or ‘I want to get off my meds.’ While those are good reasons, it doesn’t address how they FEEL about exercise,” Piliwale explains.

Piliwale says usually a one-on-one conversation works best to help people focus on the emotional and mental aspects of exercise. She’ll ask simple questions to help people make the connection on their own.

A few questions Piliwale asks before and after each workout are:

  • How’s your breathing?
  • How do you feel emotionally? Are you stressed? Anxious?
  • How did you sleep last night?
  • Are you able to focus at work?

After a few workouts, people start to respond with things like “My sleep pattern is so much better now!” Or “My husband says I’m happier lately.” Or “Wow, I don’t feel sleepy at my desk anymore!”

When people come to these realizations, it means they’re starting to connect physical exercise to their emotional state. Exercise is no longer a chore to lose weight—it’s a way to feel good and improve their physical and emotional well-being.

“It means they’re now aware of how their body feels, physically, emotionally and mentally, in conjunction with exercise. They finally joined these aspects together through simple awareness,” says Piliwale. “People notice these things now because they’re paying attention.”

Connecting the dots in this way helps create a lifetime of healthy habits. Exercise becomes something you look forward to, and even miss when it’s not there. When you focus on how you feel after each workout, you realize that exercise isn’t just physical, it’s mental.

This content originally appeared on Well-Being Hawaii.

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