The fitness fix for better self-care

Adulting can often leave us feeling stressed, overwhelmed, sluggish, or emotionally taxed, which is why it is important for everyone to practise active self-care through fitness.

To do so, we must first get comfortable with the notion that self-care is not selfish. One way to do this is to connect some of your self-care activities to your regular fitness routine, habits and behaviours. Doing so will, in a sense, accomplish two goals at once.

READ MORE | 6 Tips From A Self-Care Coach On How To Regain Inner Strength And Live Your Most Remarkable Life

Defining self-care

To understand what is self-care and why it is important, consider the analogy: “you can’t fill from an empty cup”.

That, in essence, is what self-care focuses on. Self-care is the belief that you must fill your cup before you can pour into another.

And through practicing regular self-care and fitness habits, you empower yourself to show up more effectively as your best self, for others.

According to the National Council of Mental Health and Wellbeing, self-care is “any intentional action taken to increase one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health”.

In this context, self-care is basically time when you place importance on your overall health and balance. This designated time is spent deliberately engaging in activities and behaviours, with intention, to bring more balance to your physical and mental state.

Self-care is important because it represents lifestyle choices that encourage you to regularly block off time to promote your overall health and well-being.

In addition, regular fitness related self-care can help to decrease depression, stress, high-blood pressure, exhaustion, and reduce your risk of strokes.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2017 found that “serious conditions such as heart attack and stroke can be managed or prevented with the adoption of self-care techniques.”

Short-term benefits of practicing self-care include:

  • Making your health and needs a priority and giving yourself time to rest can significantly reduce stress levels.
  • The more you take care of yourself, the better you will feel about who you are as a person because you will meet more of your core needs on a regular basis.

The many long-term benefits of self-care include:

  • Decreased physical and mental ailments.
  • Increased sense of overall work-life balance.
  • Decreased cardio vascular and stroke factors.
  • Increased sense of self-esteem and personal empowerment.
  • Reduced stress-related physical or mental burnout.
  • Deeper social connections, friendships relationships, and an improved quality of life.

Identifying self-care roadblocks

Many adults find that it is a challenge to schedule dedicated self-care time. Most adults feel guilty when they schedule time strictly centred around personal care. I regularly heard comments such as;

  • I feel like I do not ‘deserve’ or ‘need’ self-care time”
  • It makes me feel like I’m being frivolous or over-indulgent.”
  • We are a single income family and self-care is expensive.”
  • I could be using that time for things like cleaning, meal prep, laundry, or driving the kids to their extra-curricular activities.”
  • Ugh, one more thing to schedule, when I just want another hour to sleep.”

We can come up with numerous reasons to avoid blocking out time for ourselves due to the guilt associated doing something personal and allocating time designed to strictly focus on ourselves.

In addition, self-care activities often form part of your individual story, personal background or cultural experiences.

And in today’s hyper-critical, judgmental society, we are conditioned to put everyone else’s needs before our own.

But you can change that by implementing the tips below. They will empower you to schedule in behaviours and activities that are totally centred around you.

READ MORE | Stay On Top Of Mental And Physical Self-Care

Thought work

First, we have to start with changing our thoughts and attitudes around self-care, especially if the thought of it is demotivating, disempowering or simply negative without purpose.

Here are five simple self-care activities you can do for free:

  1. Adapt the 20/20 rule: Basically if you spend 20 minutes of sitting, take 20 seconds to get up and stretch or complete a light exercise.  Such as jumping jacks or high knee raises. 
  2. Schedule a walking party with some friends.  Meet up at different locations each week and walk and chat for 30-60 minutes.
  3. Recognize and count your blessings.  This means coaching yourself to see the positives that occur during the day. Then before bedtime, write down six successes that happened each day.  They can be large or small.  You just need to identify and celebrate them. 
  4. Free workouts at the park.  Most towns have a park that has “park workout equipment”; such as pull-up bars, elliptical equipment, balance beams and other such equipment’s.  Locate your local park and schedule weekly time to go there and use it. 
  5. Schedule time with friends/people who inspire, encourage and motive you.  And decrease time with those that drain your energy.

Implementing self-care

Start with implementing just one into your regular weekly routine, then reflect and perhaps try another. Aim for consistency. I suggest that you start with committing to practising one fitness-related self-care activity twice a week.

Block it off in your calendar for at least a month and adjust times the following month only if needed.

When it is time to build on your self-care foundation, consider including some of these tried-and-trusted fitness activities to support self-care:

  1. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  2. Light weight training. Start light and complete several sets.
  3. Dance! It doesn’t matter what type, just keep moving for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Get outside. Go jogging, hiking, biking, swimming, rock climbing. Start with 30 minutes and go from there.
  5. Walk with brisk intention. Download an intriguing audiobook or learn about a new topic while practising self-care and fitness.

READ MORE | 3 Ways To Spice Up Your Cardio Sessions

Gamify self-care

A game I like to play when I need to change things up and keep fitness self-care fun the following equipment-free circuit.

HOW TO PLAY: Make a list of 10-20 different physical activities that you can perform from the comfort of your home. Number them, then write down each number on a piece of paper, cut them out and put them in a jar. Close your eyes and choose a piece of paper. Complete whatever exercise corresponds with the number you selected.

A few exercise examples include:

  • Jump rope in place (5 minutes)
  • Jumping jacks (3 minutes)
  • Lunges (3 sets of 10)
  • High knees (3 sets of 10)
  • Donkey kicks (3 sets of 10)
  • Run in place (3 minutes)
  • Mountain climbers (3 sets of 10)
  • Push-ups (3 sets of 10)
  • Planking (2 x 30 seconds each)
  • Wall squats (3 sets, 30 seconds each)

Another great way to get more active is to go online and find a new workout video to try every week. This can be a good way to keep the game fun, interesting and different. Plus, it is free!

See how that works? Change up how you view self-care and fitness and it can have a positive impact on how you regularly implement these activities and behaviours!

For busy mommies, I can recommend 3 self-care activities I included in my week when my kids were younger:

  1. Grab the kiddos and learn a new TikTok dance. It is interactive, fun and will keep you popular with the kids and their friends.
  2. Schedule dance party time. For example, on Saturdays while cleaning, I would let the little ones play DJ while we danced around the house. Or get some cleaning sheets, step on them, and skate around the house sweeping or mopping the floor. Tweaks like this allow you to clean while also getting physical activity, which releases endorphins and dopamine for that feel-good feeling we all enjoy!
  3. Weekly nature walks. You can use the walks to look for different things with the kiddos such as flowers, birds, or colours. You can even use the time to play games such as eye-spy. And these walks allow you to connect and spend quality time with your little ones while getting your steps in.

READ MORE | The Rise Of The Online Self-Care Guru

Levelling up

With these tips in mind, you should be ready to level up! Start by defining some self-care behaviours and activities for yourself, then implement them.

Remember, when it comes to self-care, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so brainstorm activities that you enjoy. And don’t limit or filter your list, just write. You might be surprised by the activities you come up with.

3 steps for fitness self-care success

  1. Decide that self-care is important and commit to it.
  2. Share your plan with a self-care buddy, friend, or family member.
  3. Make it a weekly practice to review and share your progress with your designated self-care support person.

Wrap it up

Ultimately, self-care is very personal and, as adults, we must define self-care plans that promote our individual needs.

This means no one has the right to criticise, judge or shame you about the activities you have on your plan.

Choose fitness activities and behaviours that you can commit to, want to practise and make you feel good! And self-care plans are never set in stone. They can be fluid and evolve regularly based on your life and needs at the time. The goal is to simply ensure that the activities support your physical, mental and emotional balance.

By Gette Moore-Carley

About the author: Gette Moore-Carley is a model and modelling and empowerment coach. For eight years, Gette ran a university campus where she facilitated courses on Work-Life Balance, Professional Development, Executive Leadership and piloted a College Success program. Connect on IG @gette_moore.


Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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