Physical activity is good for your body but it’s great for your mind too!
It’s incredible how much benefit exercise can give you. Exercise is one of the biggest prescriptions in the health industry as an aid towards mental issues like depression. The number of positive emotional effects gained from regular exercise is amazing. They include self esteem improvement, happier mood, improved motor skills, better memory and mental functioning.
We all feel better about ourselves once we’re fresh out the shower after an intense workout right? Exercise , as we know, is great for our bodies physically when we train correctly but it is also the best medicine for a healthy mind. During exercise, your body releases chemicals to the brain that have a range of positive effects for mood and mind boosting.
Research from a study performed at Duke University found that those who exercised at a moderate level of intensity of 40 minutes, 3-5 days a week, experienced the greatest mood-boosting benefits. Aerobic activity regularly performed and consistent levels was also linked to chemical release.
So what are these chemicals?
Endorphins: Have you often said or someone said to you to ‘go get those endorphins going!’ when trying to motivate someone to exercise? It’s something I know I’ve said to many clients and members as we commonly know that word is thrown about as the feel good factor post exercise, but do you know what endorphins actually are and what they do?
Endorphins are released by the pituitary gland during vigorous exercise. Released in response to painful or stressful activity, endorphins are used to blind the pain caused from exercise which will allow you to train longer and harder. Other effects of endorphins include a decrease in stress levels, a post exercise ‘high’, decreased appetite and raised level of immune response.
Serotonin: Serotonin is another chemical released during exercise, this is a natural mood enhancer. The release of serotonin will help reduce the symptoms of depression. Studies show that people with low levels of serotonin could experience negative physical effects along side the depression mood, effects such as an increased risk of heart disease.
Physical activity is even prescribed by doctors for conditions such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes as it can be as effective as medication, sometimes even more so. Think of exercise as free medicine, without the side effects.
Just take a moment and think how your body reacts under stress and what you put yourself through. I imagine you’ve experienced some of the following… Tense muscles (probably in the shoulders and neck region), headaches, pulsations, muscle cramps, insomnia, heartburn, stomachache. So now not only are you stressed about whatever your issue may be but you multiply those stress levels by now worrying and trying to cure some of the problem listed above, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body care.
Exercise is an effective way to break this cycle. Along with releasing the Endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Your mind and body are closely linked together, so when your body feels good, your mind will to.
But it doesn’t have to be boring, you may not enjoy the gym, you may not have ever been in one! but it’s not the only option to exercise. Far from it.
Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. When we feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have other mental or emotional problems, it can be doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, and it can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to exercise, or your social anxiety means you can’t bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park.
So, what do we do? Where shall we start?
- Be Realistic – Start small. When snowed under by the avalanche of an emotional disorder and you haven’t exercised in what seems like forever, signing up for a marathon probably isn’t the best place to start if there’s a chance of you falling short. Let’s be realistic. Something simple like go buy some new gym gear, get into that positive mental state of mind that this the start of a new healthier, happier you. Aim for the little victories, starting with just 2-3 walks a week for 10+ minutes is enough to get that feel good factor we’re looking for.
- Make it fun – What do you do for fun and does it get your heart rate going and your body moving? if yes, then it’s exercise. Walking the dog, throwing a frisbee, gardening, DIY and of course sex. If there’s nothing coming straight to mind then try something new, head down to your local leisure, see what sports/clubs they have and give them a go, making you more active and also giving you sense of accomplishment.
- Time it right – A question we often hear is ‘what time of the day is best to train?’. Expecting some scientific reply that that body’s optimum performance level is here and there. Not at all. The best time for you to train is when you’re most awake and energised. I see people at my gym at 6:30am. The early birds as they’re known as. Why do they train then? Usually 2 answers here. Generally just used to mornings and routine gets them out of bed to start the day and get the endorphins going early, or simply it’s people want to get it in early so they haven’t got to bother after work when rush hour kicks in. So long as you’re trying to get in a healthy amount of sleep, when you train is irreleveant.
- Make it social – Having a playing partner is a great way to help. It can bring the out the healthy competitor in you, pushing you to work harder and thus feel better for it. Not forgetting that is this in aid of a mood disorder, the company and having someone to talk to is just as important and will make you feel better.
Life Changing Fitness – All we do is change lives.
WILL POLLITT – Elite Coach & LCF Gym Manager
ELITE COACH AND LCF GYM MANAGER