Kim Lyon is a trainee therapist at the ACT Center. Each month she’ll be writing for Jeddah Blog about a particular aspect of mental well-being. She offers counselling services to the expat community in Jeddah, helping to ease the stresses of moving abroad through workshops and individual sessions. An expat herself, Kim is in a good position to understand the difficulties an expat may face.
In this first blog post, Kim will be talking about the health benefits of exercise and giving us some great tips on how we can take steps to keep fit. If you are like many of us who have transportation constraints and find it difficult to get to a gym, Kim will give you some great ideas on how to get moving without even leaving your living room.
If you have any questions for Kim, leave them at the end of this blog post, and she’ll get back to you.
2015 has arrived, and no doubt many of us are resolving to be healthier this year. Gym owners delight as people flock to sign up for memberships. While you are thinking about your good intentions for the coming months, consider also the mental benefits of working out.
Exercise is a great stress reliever. It releases feel good chemicals, endorphins, into our blood and lowers levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. Studies have shown that exercise can boost our memories and levels of self-confidence. Team sports can be an opportunity to socialize and learn new skills. Using energy gives us energy, though sometimes it’s a matter of getting started.
There are an increasing number of gyms in Jeddah, including chains such as Fitness First, Fitness Time, and Gold’s Gym. A quick Google search reveals many independent gyms across the city, too. For women, Olympia (behind Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital), Gold’s Gym and some of the high-end hotels have gyms, although memberships are extremely expensive.
Thankfully, incorporating exercise into your lifestyle doesn’t have to mean long sweaty hours at the gym or spending lots of money on equipment. The Middle Corniche and Main Corniche are excellent, safe places to walk, often with the added benefit of a breeze. Walkways have become quite popular and the promenade along the Flood Canal Street in Rawdah is a great place to walk. If mall-walking appeals, head to Al Salaam Mall or the Mall of Arabia. Both are usually quiet in the mornings and can offer a good walk. If you fancy hiking in the desert, look up Jeddah Backpackers or the Hash Harriers. Research has shown that walking can increase our immunity, bone density and mood. It also can act as a free insurance policy against heart disease and obesity.
“Using energy gives us energy”
You don’t even need to leave your living room. Second-hand fitness equipment can be found online at sites such as expatriates.com, while fitness DVDs are available at Virgin Megastore. You may also want to check expat groups for fitness instructors offering private classes.
Youtube is a surprisingly great resource. Type in salsa, kick-boxing, tae bo, step-intervals – anything you are interested in – and you’ll likely find a workout or two! FitnessBlender has a huge selection of no-nonsense workouts catering for all levels of fitness.
While yoga is typically hailed as good for relaxation, we don’t all have the inclination to become human pretzels, and that’s ok. However, I would urge you to try it, because it’s such an excellent mind-body workout. Yogadownload.com has an amazing selection of different types of classes which you can stream or download, and is well-worth checking out no matter your age or ability.
If you consider yourself a diehard couch potato, hopefully this article will prompt you to think again. Don’t follow the crowd or fitness trends. Think about what you like to do. Extroverts might be more attracted to fitness with a social element, so might consider dance, tennis or team games, while introverts might prefer more solitary pursuits like swimming and hiking.
Please do consult your physician if you haven’t exercised in a long time. Don’t rush into a fitness program, and don’t push yourself to workout intensely everyday. Build up slowly from twenty minutes of exercise, two or three times a week. Aim to include activities you enjoy. As with any commitment to a healthier lifestyle, it’s important to build sustainable habits.