How To Enjoy Exercise Part 1: Walking
First, a reminder of some of the brain benefits exercise can provide:
Exercise increases the amount of available dopamine in the brain which in turn helps reduce ADHD symptoms.
Exercise is starting to be recognized as the best way to slow down age-related cognitive decline.
Exercise can help make it easier to go to sleep at night, and restful sleep is good for brain health (unless you exercise right before bedtime when it may make it harder to get to sleep)
Okay, so you know about some of the great benefits of exercise. You know you want to walk regularly, but you still keep putting it off. There might be some outdated exercise beliefs killing your motivation.
Which Of The Following Beliefs Resonate With You?
It is not medically safe for you to exercise or even to walk. This is a good reason. (Do not do it.)
You remember the frantic “power walking” days and think you have to do that. (You do not)
You believe that you need to walk at a certain speed or for a certain distance in order to get any benefit. (Not true)
You believe in the “no pain, no gain” philosophy that was so popular decades ago. (Not true)
You believe inconsistent exercise is a waste of time. (Not true)
You believe you are “terrible” at any kind exercise, and you have always been. (Do you remember times that you were not “terrible” at it?)
It will be boring! (Read on for ways to make walks more interesting)
If you are healthy enough to walk, and you want to, how do you get your ADHD brain to stop sabotaging your efforts?
Setting and accomplishing tiny goals can help
Dopamine plays an important role in our efforts at initiating tasks and behaviors, and our brains generate dopamine for different reasons. Some is created when we set goals that we are looking forward to (anticipation). And some is released when we meet our goals. Both occasions feel good and can increase motivation.
One ADHD coach, Julie (of "Julie Saad Wellness"), used the technique when she wanted to start a daily walking practice. She decided to set an initial tiny goal of merely stepping outside. It was an easy win for her, and she kept doing that at first. Did she sometimes go for a short walk? Of course she did! She increased her goals slowly, always keeping it something she could easily succeed at.
Eventually she was able to reach her long term goal, walking every morning.
Why did this method work? It worked because each time we meet our goals, we get a spurt of dopamine (which feels really good). That positive chemical feedback made it easier to try again.
Boredom Kills Motivation
It will always be hard for us with ADHD brains to do anything that we expect to be boring. We need to add interest to make the walk something to look forward to. We can make it fun by playing games or walking with friends, or interesting by seeing what we can notice around us that is new, or use a walk to get some alone time.
Making Walks Interesting
The best ideas will come from you. Here are just a few to get those creative juices flowing:
Take interesting photos to share.
Walk a different route each day.
Pretend you are a tourist.
Walk to a destination.
Explore different bike paths and trails.
Walk someone’s dog for them.
Admire the spring flowers! 🌼
(Now It's Your Turn!)
Are you excited to go walking yet?
It's a beautiful world and you belong out there!