Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.
Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Drive On today. I want to talk about. The importance of exercise in managing mental health for veterans. And. Before get into that. I mean, obviously we all know mental health is an issue with veterans. Um, Um, but just to kind of highlight the significance of.
Mental health and the issues that we are dealing with compared to maybe our civilian. Counterparts people who’ve never served in the military. Um, I took a look at some studies and a few statistics that are out there. Regarding [00:01:00] mental health in veterans, specifically with PTSD. Uh, because that’s one that I, I feel like is.
Much higher in the military. Population than it is in the civilian population. And based on the research that I looked into that. Actually is true. Um, researchers found that about 13% of us veterans were diagnosed with PTSD and that’s compared to about a little over 6%. Of civilians who ever experienced PTSD at any point in their lives. Um, so.
It’s almost double, somewhere around double the amount of veterans. Uh, having PTSD versus the civilians. And it makes sense because in another study, researchers found that about 87% of us veterans. Have, uh, have been exposed to at least one traumatic event at some point during their military service. And on average, they were exposed to about three and a half. [00:02:00]
Uh, traumatic events. I mean, how can you have a half of a traumatic event? It’s an average. That’s how. So, um, no, of course mental health is more than just PTSD. Um, it’s. It’s a lot of different things. There’s a lot of different aspects to mental health. Um, but the reason why I’m picking on PTSD is because.
More often than not. People who are diagnosed with PTSD. Ended up having some other conditions associated with PTSD. Um, Uh, roughly about 80% of veterans with PTSD have at least one other mental health. Uh, illness such as depression or anxiety. So. Like I said at the beginning, I want to talk about the role of exercise to help alleviate some of the symptoms of these conditions that we might be dealing with.
Um, And exercise. Can help relieve the symptoms of a lot of [00:03:00] different mental health conditions, but it isn’t a hundred percent cure for everything. Um, But it can help reduce the severity of some of these symptoms. So for example, for depression, exercise has been shown to increase the release of endorphins, which are a naturally occurring chemical inside the body that can help improve mood.
Reduced feelings of sadness, hopeless hopelessness. Um, and regular exercise can also increase your social interaction, which when you’re suffering from depression, you tend to kind of isolate yourself and kind of hurt yourself away and get away from. Um, you know, other people, so going to the gym or joining a softball league or.
Something along those lines, you’re going to have much more social interaction that way, even just getting out for a walk around the neighborhood, you’re going to see your neighbors. You’re going to see people around the neighborhood. Um, not that you necessarily have to. I stand there and have a whole.
Hour, long conversation with these people, but just, you don’t have to [00:04:00] give a friendly hello and, you know, keep going on your way. Um, you know, th it’s a little more social interaction than you’re going to have if you’re. Trapped inside your house, not going anywhere. Um, so. It helps with that also provides you with a sense of accomplishment. Hey, I got up out of bed today and I went and I did something. I exercise. I, um, check that box. I got that done. So I’ve accomplished something today.
Um, and both of those things can help improve your self esteem and, um, you know, just overall reduce the feelings of depression that you may be experiencing. Um, for anxiety. Uh, physical activity can also help reduce things like your, your muscle, muscle pension and, uh, help you relax. Um, And those can counteract some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, like the, you know, your racing, heart, beat your, your.
Um, Feeling like you can’t catch your breath and things like that. Those physical symptoms. Uh, can be helped out with doing some sort [00:05:00] of physical activity. Um, And it helps build resilience and improve your overall health. Um, which is a goal. I think everyone can get on board with their. Um, but also those types of things help reduce the likelihood of experiencing anxiety and other stress related.
Uh, symptoms that you may be having. Um, for PTSD. The physical activity, any sort of exercise can. Uh, help provide you with a healthy outlet for the emotions that you might be experiencing. Um, as opposed to, uh, drinking away those emotions or.
Unhealthy coping mechanism. Um, the physical activity can help promote that. A healthy outlet for those emotions. Um, Gives you a sense of feeling like you’re in control of your body, your surroundings. Um, can show [00:06:00] that exercise can improve your, um, your cognitive functions as well, the way your brain processes things. Um, and.
It can help reduce the severe effects of PTSD that you may be experiencing. Um, now I know. If you’re anything like me, when you got out of the military, you probably. Didn’t keep up with your regular PT. At routine the way. Uh, you had been doing for however many years, you were in the military before.
And. You may find that you. Aren’t in that peak physical condition anymore. You’re not that 20 year old stud who maxed the PT test and. I was able to, you know, Just be an absolute beast in the gym. Right. Um, so. As far as getting back into an exercise routine. Um, I think it’s important that we remember to just start small.
Um, and bite off small chunks and, [00:07:00] um, small manageable chunks that you can be consistent with. Let’s start with a small amount of exercise. Maybe it’s just 10 minutes of walking around your neighborhood. Uh, per day. Um, and then you can gradually increase the duration. How long you’re walking for and the intensity, how fast you’re walking.
Um, And eventually maybe you can get to the point where you’re, you’re jogging and running. Um, if that’s the type of exercise that you choose to do. And we’ll talk more about that in a second, but, um, but just remember if it’s been a while, since you’ve exercised. You’re not that 20 year old stud anymore. Um, don’t try to work out like you’re still in that peak physical condition. Like you’re like you’re Superman. You’re going to be able to do everything that you did when you’re 20, because they’re going to end up hurting yourself. So start small.
Ease your way into it. So that way you kind of get a feel for what your body can handle at this point. Um, it’s going to be totally different than it was maybe 20 years ago. [00:08:00] Um, but.
Once, when you get that kind of an idea, then, then you could see like, where can I push it? Even just a little bit. Okay, can I.
Do different activities. Can I do them longer? Can I do you know, more intensity, faster running or more weights or whatever it is? Get to know your body and starts start slow. Um, I’ve mentioned the book, atomic habits on the show before, but if you haven’t read it, it might be worth checking out. But, uh, the reason why I bring that book up atomic habits is because it talks about the concept of getting 1% better every day.
And in the beginning 1%. Won’t seem like much, a 1% change. So if you’re talking about a 10 minute exercise, like 10 minute walk around your neighborhood. Um, 1% better in that 10 minute exercise would be an extra six seconds of walking. So really not that big of a deal. So 1% better or [00:09:00] worse. So 1% better. It would be walking for 10 minutes and six seconds.
Um, if you’ve got. 1% worse, it would be nine minutes and 54 seconds. Really? At the end of the day, not much of a difference, uh, between the 10 minutes where you started and either way plus one or minus 1%. Um, but at the end of the first month, that 10 minutes would be a little bit over 13 minutes.
At the end of the second month. You’d be at about 18 minutes. And if you kept going at that rate, which I don’t think anyone really would, but, um, if you kept going at that rate of getting 1% better every single day, By the end of that first year, you’d be walking for over six hours. Now, obviously you probably don’t have time for that. I don’t know too many people have six hours in the day. They can just spend walking. Um,
So, obviously you’re not going to do that, but. As your endurance increases, you can switch to something else. So you don’t need to continue just doing the same thing. Um, you can [00:10:00] just, you can walk. For as long as you can. And when you feel like you can maybe do more, maybe, maybe walk a little bit faster, maybe start to jog, maybe start to run.
And get into a little bit more, um, more intensity there. And that way you don’t have to go for quite as long, you don’t need to go for six hours. That’s a insane amount of time to be, uh, to be walking. Um, it would be, mind-numbing probably by the end of it, you you’d be so exhausted. With just walking that you wouldn’t want to do it anymore. And so you don’t want that either. You don’t want to have that sort of fatigue, but.
Um, you know, if you get to the point where the walk is easy at, uh, you know, maybe a half hour at a moderate pace and maybe step it up a little bit and go a little bit faster and maybe, maybe reduce the amount of time, but you increase the speed and you just see how that. Goes for a little bit. And then, then you can slowly increase that time to.
And work your way up. Um, but just.
Think about it this way, that 1% doesn’t seem [00:11:00] like a whole hell of a lot right now. But as time goes on that 1% better.
It has just such huge impact on, on everything that you’re doing. And imagine the person who can. Today right now, barely be able to make it a 10 minute walk. If they were to follow that mindset. Of just getting 10 or 1% better every single day. Tomorrow they’d be able to do. 10 minutes and six seconds, they’d be able to handle that. Right. And then the next day they’d be able to do a little bit longer and a little bit longer and a little bit longer.
They’d be able to do those things and as they were doing that, they’re getting better. And so by the end of that year, yeah, they physically probably would be able to do. Six hours of walking because they’ve consistently been getting better. You know, as long as you stay consistent with all of it, they they’ll continue to get better.
Um, But I think the [00:12:00] important part is in order to be consistent, you have to find an activity that you enjoy. So choosing an activity that you find enjoyable. Um, Maybe that suits your interests, your, and especially your fitness level, uh, will make it easier to stick to a regular routine, um, and, and make it.
Part of your lifestyle.
Personally, I used to hate lifting weights. It was just like torture to me. I hated doing it, so I didn’t do it, but I enjoyed running. So I ran and I stuck with it because I would go running and I. Enjoyed it. I was able to clear my mind. I was able to. Get outside and breathe. The fresh air and just enjoy myself while I was outside. So.
I think it kind of makes sense. You’re you’re less likely to stick with something that you don’t enjoy. So make it easy for yourself to do something. Physical by picking something that you do enjoy. And then you’re able to incorporate that [00:13:00] exercise into your daily routine. And again, talking about habits.
Um, The book atomic habits, um, talks about incorporating these things where you have opportunities to put the op uh, exercise into your daily routine. Um, and. Think about what you do every single morning when you got out of bed. Uh, for me personally, I get up, I use the bathroom, I get dressed. I go to the gym. I come back home.
I eat breakfast. I take a shower. I shave, I brushed my teeth. So on so forth, right? It’s the same thing for me every single day, I wake up, my alarm goes off. I do go through that same routine every single day. Um, yeah, of course there’s going to be the one-off exceptions where there’s something that comes up early in the morning. And I may, I’m going to have to adjust my schedule and I have to do something different.
On. On the average day, let’s put it that way. I’m doing that same routine every single day. I don’t even really [00:14:00] have to think about it. I just get up and I just go and do the thing that is part of my routine.
I don’t have to think about brushing my teeth. I always do that. At the same time at same place, I, everything is laid out where I needed my toothbrushes on, you know, next to the sink. I have a toothpaste. I have the, you know, everything is all there where I need it. I don’t have to think about it. It just became a habit.
I don’t have to think about going to the gym either. You know, my alarm goes off and I, I get up and I go. You don’t need to have a gym membership or, or anything crazy like that. Just incorporate exercise, whatever the exercise is that you choose to do whatever fits your interest in your abilities and everything, whatever exercise you choose to do, incorporate that into your daily routine.
Just make it. Uh, part of what you do.
You can even make small tweaks to your daily routine to include some sort of physical activity. If you feel like you’re strapped for time, you don’t have time to do these things.
Do [00:15:00] small things. And like, like I was saying before, it started off small take the stairs. When you get to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or. Walk. Or bike to work in instead of driving. Or during a commercial break during when you’re watching TV. Do pushups during the commercial break. So as long as you’re allowing yourself to watch TV,
You know, you’re going to be doing pushups. Or sit ups or whatever it is that you choose to do, do something. And that way. You have to earn the reward of being able to watch the TV. Right. So. You’re not just sitting there wasting away. You’re you’re getting some physical activity. Um, And it’s great if it can be outside, but it doesn’t have to, like, you can do.
You know, pushups on your living room floor right next to your couch. If you want, you. Where you sit and watch TV, get down on the floor. Go do pushups. Um, I travel for work quite a bit and I. Find a space in the hotel room and I, I [00:16:00] do some sort of physical activity. It may just be as simple as stretching.
Um, sometimes that’s all I can handle because I have some issues with my bath, my neck, and sometimes I can’t do much more than that. So sometimes I’m, I’m really just stretching and trying to. Uh, alleviate some of that pain, but it’s still doing some sort of physical activity. Um, For people who have trouble with motivating themselves to getting out of bed. I know I said made it, make it part of your.
Your daily routine, get out of bed, go to go to the gym. Workout. Um, If you have trouble motivating yourself to get up. And you’re like, oh, I’ll just sleep in. You know, an extra half hour of sleep sounds better than going out for a jog or whatever. Um, Try finding a workout partner. Um, or. Join a fitness group or a class. If you have those available in your area.
Um, that way you get some sort of accountability. And. Some of the social aspect as well, which [00:17:00] could be nice depending on, you know, your, your personality is. Um, and it could make it more fun for you too. Um, this might not be for everyone. I know for me, I personally don’t enjoy working out with other people. I, I like working out by myself. Um, it’s just a way for me to clear my mind and, um, you know,
I call it being on where, where I need to feel like I need to be. Involved in a conversation coming up with things to talk about in it. Sometimes I just want to not be thinking about anything and just clear my mind altogether. And sometimes working out with someone to me, isn’t. The best thing. Um, but it may be for you. So, you know, if you feel like you need that support.
You know, find somebody who you can work out with. Um, You know, especially if you’re struggling with that accountability and getting up in the morning, you’re going to have someone calling you. Hey, where are you? Um, I’m waiting for you. Come on. Hurry up. Um, yeah, that type of thing might help. So. [00:18:00]
Um, but at the same time, you know, I’m talking about where you may have trouble getting out of bed and going to do your exercise routine and keeping up with that. Um, be flexible because unexpected events are gonna come up. I mean, life happens. Things happen. We’re we’re going to end up having things that, that pop up. And, um, I think you need to allow yourself to modify your routine.
When it’s needed. Um, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you miss a workout or have a setback, maybe you have a little minor injury or something. You pull the muscle or whatever, like it’s not the end of the world if you miss it, an exercise here and there every once in a while. But if you make it a habit to miss the exercise,
And consistently day after day after day, you’re not exercising. Well then. That becomes your habit and that’s not a great habit to have either.
I mean, the whole idea behind this is this is supposed to help improve your mental health. So if you’re beating yourself up over missing an [00:19:00] exercise, maybe because your kid is sick and you have to take care of them, or you have to get up early to catch a flight and you just don’t have time for a workout that day. You’re already getting up at three in the morning, the gym doesn’t open till.
I don’t know, five or something. You don’t have time to exercise that day and that’s okay. Like, Things happen. Life happens. Um, these things are okay and you know, this is all again, designed to help improve your mental health. And if you’re beating yourself up over this. It sort of defeats the purpose. It doesn’t make it.
Worthwhile if. If it’s just making you feel worse about yourself. So. Be flexible. I’m not talking physically flexible, although that certainly does help. But be flexible with the routine. It’s okay to not go to the gym in the morning. And go at night after work. If you had a rough night. Maybe the [00:20:00] baby was up crying all night and you had a rough night and you just, you need that extra half hour of sleep to.
Um, To be able to deal with work that day. Okay. Cool. That happens, you know, that things happen. Um, but on your way, home from work, swing by the gym. Or do whatever it is that you do, whatever kind of exercise I’m picking on the gym, because that’s just a thing that a lot of people do, but yours might be different. Go find something that you can do after work and.
And get that physical energy out. You’re going to need it. You’ll actually sleep better too at night, if you get some of that energy out. So, um, go and do that. And I know, especially if you haven’t slept very well. Uh, the night before, you’re probably feeling like, oh, I have no energy to give, but you do, you, you have some in there and you can go do something. You can go.
Just walk around the neighborhood for a little bit, or you can, go to the gym, you can do all sorts of things, right. Um, And it really, if you’re unsure what to do. [00:21:00]
What types of physical activity would be good? What type of exercise would be good for your mental health? Start with the low cost stuff. First don’t go out and buy expensive exercise equipment. The expensive running shoes and expensive. Gym membership. If, if you’re not sure what type of exercise you want to do.
Just go for a walk. That’s pretty much free. I mean, you can just go for a walk around the neighborhood or jog. Around the neighborhood. Um, if you have a bike already. Cool. You don’t have to go buy one. Go for a bike ride. And see how that feels for you. Um, For free, you can do pushups, you can do sit-ups jumping jacks. Any of those types of things, you can do that at home. You don’t even have to leave your house and you can do those types of things.
If you have stairs in your house. You can climb the stairs climb up and climb down, climb up and down. Just repeat over and over. If you have access to a pool at your house, or, a neighbor or a friend or, some neighborhoods have [00:22:00] pools that. You can have access to. Uh, if you have access to a pool, you can go swimming.
That’s great exercise. It’s great. For your cardio, it’s great for, you know, physical, like your, your muscles and joints. And it’s, it’s incredibly great exercise to do. Um, You have basketball courts nearby, or you have a basketball hoop at your house, play basketball. Um, join the softball team. Go rollerblading.
There’s a thousand different other things that you can do that are pretty low cost. Um, or, or no cost at all. You know, in the case of something like pushups and sit ups, you don’t even need any special clothes or equipment or shoes or anything. You could do that barefoot. And you can do those types of things in your living room. If you want.
You can even find exercise videos for all sorts of things like yoga and Pilates and other things like that on YouTube. So if you’re. You’re like, yeah, I’ve heard good things about yoga, but I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know even where to start. You can find beginner videos [00:23:00] on YouTube. Just go to YouTube type in beginner, yoga videos, and they’ll show you what to do. All the.
Different poses and all the different moves and everything else. I. I don’t do yoga. So I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about with, with yoga, but I know you can find these things out there. So if that’s something you’re interested in, go look it up and do it. And I think that’s the important thing is just to start doing it.
Um, because you’re not going to start building that habit until you start doing the thing that you want. To make a habit. Um, And if you’re having trouble, uh, obviously there’s resources out there, like the YouTube videos that I was talking about. Um, but there’s other resources too. Um, the VA has a program called MOVE! Weight management program and, uh, it’s a program designed to encourage things like healthy eating and increasing physical activity.
That might be something to check out. Um, and I’ll have a link to that in the show notes. Uh, the VA also has a veterans health library. Online that includes different types of exercise [00:24:00] programs and different. Physical health, uh, type programs that can help you get started. If you’re unsure where to start, um,
And there are other nonprofit organizations. Which encourage veterans to find healthy ways to. cope with their mental health. Um, There’s just a few examples. There’s a health for heroes. Uh, exalted warrior foundation, mindful yoga therapy. Uh, these are just a few, and, depending on what you’re looking for.
I’m sure there’s organizations out there that can help get you started with any number of different things. Um, But really I, again, This is. Just. It’s such an important thing for people who are suffering with mental health issues. Um, It’s so important that I just encourage everyone to go out and just get started with something, try something. Maybe you try jogging and you find out that you [00:25:00] absolutely hate it. Cool.
Don’t do that anymore. Find something else. Because if you hate it, you’re not going to continue doing it. And that’s going to just leave you in the same situation that you’re in now, and it’s going to make you feel a whole lot more frustrated and angry and, um, Your mental health, isn’t going to improve if, um, if you’re trying things and you’re just failing and failing and failing, um, or feeling like you’re failing anyways.
Um, so go try something, try something new.
If that doesn’t work, try something else. Step outside of your comfort zone by something that you never thought that you would ever want to do. Go go learn how to play golf or tennis or, uh, you know, pick a sport or pick an activity that you’ve never done before and go give it a shot. Maybe it’s something that you find out that you really enjoy.
Uh, I know around us here in the Phoenix area, we have tons of hiking trails, mountains, and, uh, in the [00:26:00] desert and everything. And, um, you know, in the summer months, I don’t recommend going on those trails because they. Um, They get really, really hot and it’s not a great. Uh, place to be out in the middle of the desert, especially you don’t have enough water with you in the Turner get turned around and you get lost. You.
It would be in a pretty bad situation, but you know, during the cooler months, the fall, the winter early spring, It’s great. It’s beautiful. You get outside. Get the fresh air. Um, get the beautiful scenery. Uh, around you. It’s wonderful. So try that. I mean, or if you have woods behind your house,
Or in. In your neighborhood, like go for a hike in the woods. Um, preferably not during hunting season, because that would be. It would be terrible too, but. You know, try, try different things again, like there’s so many different things that you could do.
It, it doesn’t make sense to just sit there, not doing anything. Um, give [00:27:00] it a try, give something a try and see what happens. Um, But it is important though. I do want to emphasize, uh, since we are talking about exercise for mental health purposes, Um, it is important to seek professional mental health help as well.
Um, exercise alone, like I said earlier may not be enough to cure whatever it is that you’ve got going on. Um, I am not a mental health expert. Or professional myself. Um, But I can’t imagine. Any scenario where physical activity would be bad for anyone. Um, I could be wrong. Maybe there is a situation or a scenario where doing some physical activity could be bad for your mental health. I don’t, I don’t know of it though.
But even if you do. Get into some physical activity. It may not be enough. If you don’t treat the conditions that you’re dealing with [00:28:00] appropriately. Um, with the help of a professional. Um, Those conditions could get worse. So I feel like you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you don’t go out and get the help that you might need.
Um, Now your provider. Uh, the mental health professional that you work with. May even recommend that medications are needed in your case. Um, and you can’t do that on your own and exercise alone. Isn’t going to provide you with the benefit that the medications, uh, might provide you with. Um, no, you may not need those at all, but.
It’s better to have a professional in your corner who can kind of recommend.
Uh, certain options if they deem that to be appropriate. Um, but you know, use your own judgment to, if you don’t think that that’s the right thing for you, you. You know, just speak up and be your own advocate and let them know. But, um, But they can help you understand the condition that you’re dealing with and help you identify healthy ways to cope with the [00:29:00] stresses that you’re dealing with. And that very well will, may include exercise and.
Other physical activity that you. Uh, maybe interested in doing. Um, they may. Support you in that decision. So. As we wrap up this episode, um, I want to encourage all of the listeners to. Take action towards incorporating exercise into their daily routines. Even if it’s just a small step, even if it’s just 10 minutes walking around your neighborhood.
Uh, as I mentioned earlier, exercise. Can have significant benefits for managing. Mental health and incorporating it into your daily routine can be a positive step towards improving your overall health and wellbeing. And just remember start small. Finding an activity that you enjoy. Um, Set goals for yourself that are achievable. Don’t bite off more than you can. True. Because if [00:30:00] you.
Started off going from the couch to climbing Mount Everest next week. It’s not going to happen. Um, you need to be able to find goals that are manageable and achievable for yourself. Um, find support from other people. Um, Find a workout partner find a, a fitness group or a class that you can join for that accountability in that social interaction.
Um, and, and get that help from others. If you need it. Um, But. Get started. If you haven’t already and get out there and do something. Uh, physical to help your mental health. So I want to thank you for tuning into this episode. I hope that you found this episode informative and helpful.
Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On [00:31:00] Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.