Tag Archive | Lifestyle

Exercise – It’s for EVERYbody but it benefits MORE than just your body!

A recent discussion with a friend of mine, who is recently getting back on track with making fitness a priority, prompted me to write about the mental health benefits of exercise. You see, my friend had been having difficulty getting back on track amidst running her business, recently giving birth to a new baby, raising her two other kids, and keeping a home together. She was worried about making time to workout, what if her body didn’t respond to exercise the way it once did b.b. (before babies), etc.

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As her friend, it was hard for me to watch her struggle…she has been stressed out and a little down lately, and I know from my own experience that, regardless of the physical benefits that she’d reap from regular sweat sessions, exercising would really boost her mood and be a great stress outlet.

Many of you already know about the mental health benefits of working out, but with society cramming images of perfect bodies down our throats, it’s easy to focus solely on the physical/aesthetic benefits. So, as a reminder, here are a few ways exercise can improve your mood:

1. Reduce Stress
One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. When we work up a sweat, our body increases its concentration of norepinephrine, a chemical that can decrease the brain’s response to stress.

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2. Increase Happiness
In addition to releasing chemicals that help us deal with stress, exercise also releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among those    who are clinically depressed. In some cases, exercise can even be as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. And it doesn’t have to be pumping iron or sprinting on the treadmill at a gym…go for a walk, a hike, rollerskating, etc for just 30 minutes a few times a week and you can instantly boost overall mood.exercise helps depression

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3. Relieve Anxiety
You might be surprised to know that a 20 minute jog is actually better at alleviating anxiety than a warm bubble bath. During (and after!) a sweat sesh, the brain releases chemicals that help us calm down, and doing moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (interval training, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity.

4. Boost Brainpower
This one is awesome…Several studies on both mice and humans have shown that cardiovascular exercise can stimulate the creation of new brain cells (for my science geeks, this is known as neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Research also suggests that higher intensity workouts increase levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.

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5. Sharpen Memory
Regular physical activity boosts memory and our ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in the hippocampus—the part of our brain which is responsible for memory and learning.

I talked to my friend about some of these and she finally just bit the bullet and hit the gym for the first time in a while…and she said she felt immediate results. She told me she felt less stressed, more in-control, and her overall mood was just better. Hooray!

Give it a try and see for yourself! The proof is in the pudding 🙂

Ciao for now!

-E

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Fitness Motivations

I was at the grocery store last night stocking up on fresh produce, and in casual conversation, I mentioned to checkout clerk that I was heading for a run after I went home. His reply? “Well you don’t need it!” Which I guess was supposed to be a compliment (because I suppose I appear in good shape/fit), but what it did was get me thinking about the motivation behind my workouts…

I’ll preface my own explanation for why I work out by saying that many people I know view exercise as punitive…as a means to an end (losing weight, usually). But in truth, just like with nutrition, it is small changes/improvements over time that yield lasting results. It means doing a little bit when you can, and not having an all-or-nothing mentality. It’s making it a priority but also fitting it into your busy schedule/lifestyle.

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Okay, so back to the point of this post…What motivates me to exercise:

  • Cardio is good for heart health, and I want my heart to tick as many days as possible!
  • Weight training increases muscle mass, which increases resting metabolism (how many calories you’re burning when you’re not doing any activities)…and this helps me not have to count calories to stay at a healthy weight.
  • Strength training/weight bearing exercise is good for bone health, and I don’t want osteoporosis when I get older.
  • Working out gives me a natural serotonin (happiness hormones) boost so I have a more positive mood/outlook on life.
  • Exercise is great for reducing/coping with stress!
  • I feel more toned and strong when I work out. It’s a definite confidence booster.
  • I sleep better when I workout regularly.
  • It’s my “me” time, where I can either zone out or reflect on things I’m too busy to think about during the day.

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Those are some of the concrete reasons that I have made working out a regular part of my life. It’s become as important to me as brushing my teeth. Working out just to lose weight or purely for vanity reasons never had much staying power for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have my days when I don’t feel like working out, or when I don’t have the energy for a full-blown session…but when I’m out for a run and I see someone being pushed in a wheelchair, I think to myself about how lucky I am that my body is strong enough to be able to do physically challenging activities. It’s that type of thinking…being grateful and respectful of my body’s capabilities…that keeps me going and drives me from within.

If you want my advice, work out because you deserve to feel good in your body…after all, it’s the only one you’ve got while you’re on this earth…and hopefully you’ll be around for a good long while!

Ciao for now!
-E

What is “Wellness,” and How Do I Get It?

As with any goal, you have to know where you’re going (or what you’re striving for) before you can achieve it.  So, presuming that most of you reading this are interested in health and/or “wellness,” let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Wellness is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being…The term has been defined by the Wisconsin-based National Wellness Institute as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence...with wellness being the result of personal initiative, seeking a more optimal, holistic and balanced state of health and well-being across multiple dimensions.

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So, simply put, the state of “wellness” entails actively participating in your own health and state of balance.  It’s about making a commitment to yourself to live a certain type of life…one that enhances your own personal experience of being on this earth.  For me, this means focusing on having a positive state of mind, career satisfaction, meaningful personal connections, balanced nutrition, and a healthy and active lifestyle.

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Now it may go without saying, but it is my belief that nutrition and fitness are the foundation from which other facets of wellness stem.  But, putting that aside, I want to kick off this blog by inviting you to take a look at your life and contemplating what “wellness” would look like for you, personally.  What goals do you need to work on to be healthier, happier, more balanced?

A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.  -Tom Stoppard

Food for thought…no pun intended 😉

Ciao for now!

-E

Ciao for now!

-E