Last week we told you all about how exercise can improve cognitive brain function but this week we wanted to dive deeper into how exercise can be beneficial for your mood.
It's an all too common feeling, you've finished that spin class or weights sessions and you're on top of the world. During and post-workout your brain has been releasing a chemical called endorphins that are being pumped around the body to give you a mood boost, thanking you for looking after yourself.
Enter zen-mode in the gym
Exercise not only elevates your mood but it also reduces the risk of common diseases such as heart disease and diabetes; not to mention the social distraction away from negative thoughts. The Australian Exercise and Sport Science Association (ESSA) suggest aerobic exercises like walking, swimming or cycling for 30-60mins, 3 times per week and/or weight lifting at a high intensity for 60mins 3 times per week is enough to safely keep the negative effects of depressive thoughts at bay – it's time to get out active!
The power of a little breathing
Anxiety can be managed with deep ‘belly breathing’ exercises that stimulate your vagus nerve to balance out your sympathetic nervous system (your accelerator) and your parasympathetic nervous system (your brake) to achieve a sense of calm. It can be done through yoga and meditation but also through weight lifting, simply think about breathing deep into your belly for the down (pull) phase of a bench press and then breathing out for the up (push) phase. This method of breathing has also been associated with a higher max output for powerlifters – it's a win-win.
Take a stroll to gain control
When you’re anxious your thoughts are at a heightened state and can often get cluttered and overwhelming. A common remedy is taking a walk, with the pace of walking increasing the volume of molecules in your hippocampus (memory part of the brain) that both encourage growth and stimulate the transmission of messages between molecules so that you can sort out what’s been rambling on in your head. Other aerobic rhythmic activities like swimming and cycling also teach your body to correctly assess your nervous system by knowing the heart is beating faster because of exercise and not some stressful thought.
Don’t forget your vitamin Sea
People who have suffered a serious stressful situation that endangered themselves or others can later develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This causes the person to experience feelings of intense fear, horror or helplessness during irrational moments. Many countries like Britain and the U.S. have invested in surf therapy to help treat their soldiers suffering from PTSD. It’s that special something about the ocean that cleanses your mind, body, and soul, coupled with the exercise of surfing which forces you to focus on every oncoming wave and leave whatever is troubling you on the land. And it’s not just for PTSD, organizations like Waves of Wellness run surf therapy programs for all kinds of people dealing with mental health challenges.