When you think of exercising it may be that you break out into a sweat before even attempting to pull on your annually used pair of white shiny trainers. However, if you knew the purely positive affects on your overall wellbeing, would those shiny new trainers become your new best friend? Depression is a key player in todays fast paced and self critical society, but we have in built tools to help alleviate the symptoms.
It seems that there is little recognition for the correlation between brain health and exercise, even more so in the UK. With winter approaching I thought it seemed fitting to discuss this topic. A lack of vitamin D and sunlight, feeling tired, sluggish and generally down are all signs of winter, so what can you do to stay motivated and energised this coming season?
Ask anyone that exercises regularly why they do it, the answer is always the way it makes them feel, often described as an addiction to the feel good endorphins they receive and ultimately a positive outlook on life and sharp brain. When you look at these benefits rather than the physical effects, you may begin to see a shift in behaviour.
Exercise and Depression
Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication and without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
Exercise and Stress
Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, depression, heartburn, stomach ache, diarrhoea, or frequent urination.
- It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
- It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of tennis or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and are concentrated only on your body’s movements.
- Any form of exercise will do! The good news is that a yoga session, pilates or even a kick about with a ball will distract the mind from the the woes of life. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.
Exercise and Anxiety
Disruption in the cycle of whirring thoughts that anxiety cause may provide most sufferers some much appreciated respite. Setting a plan like interval training or mindful and guided exercise will keep you focused and in the moment. A favourite of mine is a simple running app which rewards you as you reach targets and is supported with motivational music!
So there we have it, preparation can be the key to success. Why not give it a go! I can assure you that you will not feel worse for it.