Nod your head if you believe that 2020 is a year that you will remember for the rest of your life?
Now keep nodding if you feel that you will remember 2020 for all the wrong reasons – heightened stress, disrupted sleep, brain fog, and anxiety for the future?
This once in a 100-year event has left many of us feeling isolated and deprived of connection and stimulation. Time spent commuting, tackling work tasks, or dropping the kids off has been replaced with days lacking structure and purpose, a sense of loneliness, concerns around the health of loved ones and what the future looks like.
As a business owner, I’ve encountered some nervous times over the past two months. I found myself wondering – will any of our elderly patients be personally affected by Coronavirus? Will I be able to keep my team together? How significant will the financial fall-out be? Will I still have a business to return to when life goes back to ‘normal’?
As an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, I know that each of us possess an incredible tool that we can use at any time to combat the deadly effects of stress, anxiety and negative thoughts. This tool, of course, is exercise!
I want to share 5 scientifically proven benefits of exercise that will boost your mood, lift your spirits and leave you confident, making the stress of pandemic-life a thing of the past.
- Feel-Good Endorphins
Have you ever regretted a workout?
Unless you’re my girlfriend who developed an acute bout of Rhabdomyolysis after a backyard 100-burpee challenge left her in hospital overnight (a story for another day), I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that your answer is no. Every workout you’ve done has left you feeling better about yourself, both physically and mentally.
Why is this? Well not only are we as humans designed to move – think back to our Bronze Age ancestors who had to move to survive – when we exercise our brain releases a number of chemicals known as endorphins. Exercise is great for our health, so it makes sense that we are rewarded for our efforts with a hit of these feel-good substances to ensure that we do it all again soon.
No exercise? No endorphin dump, which can create a negative cycle of low energy, poor mood, and a stressed and anxious head space.
2. Know You Are Doing Something Positive For Your Health
Exercise is great because we know, whether consciously or subconsciously, we are doing something positive for our health. Whether it’s a quick 10-minute walk, a 25-minute lung-busting HIIT workout, or a 50-minute muscle-pumping resistance training session, it feels good to make the effort to prioritise our health and seize the day to make progress towards a health goal.
- Learn New Skills
Exercise is known to improve our self-efficacy. Cambridge Dictionary defines self-efficacy as ‘a person’s belief that they can be successful when carrying out a particular task’. There is a direct correlation between improved self-efficacy and an individual’s ability to better manage stress, amongst other things.
When we exercise, we encounter challenges that to overcome require the development of new skills and patterns of movement. The development of new neural pathways – think the paving of a new highway between your brain and your body – leaves us more coordinated, better balanced, stronger and more capable and confident to tackle the demands of daily life.
- Social Interaction
Now that social restrictions are easing and exercising with a select group of friends or family is again permitted, the return of one of exercise’s best assets is here. When life gets busy, exercise provides a chance to catch-up with, compete against, or simply spend time with some of our favourite people.
Personally, as someone closer to the introvert end of the scale, social isolation hasn’t been all bad. But I can understand how the past 6 weeks have been totally difficult for the most extroverted among us – no social interaction and no chance to connect with our exercise buddies. Now restrictions have lifted, re-connect with your VIPs over a coastal walk or circuit-workout in your local park.
- Exercise Outdoors For A Healthy Dose Of Negative Ions
Whilst gyms remain closed, exercising outside has become the new norm. As a health professional, it’s been great seeing more people pounding the pavement, the daily dog walkers and cyclists cruising past. One of the biggest benefits of exercising outside in nature is that it exposes us to negative ions.
Air ions are electrically charged molecules or atoms in the atmosphere. Negative ions are those that gain an electron, while positive ions lose an electron. Without getting too technical, negative ions are seen as positive health contributors, whereas positive ions are not.
When we expose ourselves to non-polluted air, safe levels of sunlight, spend time near natural water sources such as the ocean or waterfalls, or go for a bush walk, we expose ourselves to higher levels of negative ions. The body naturally prefers these environments – recall how invigorating it feels as you walk along the beach, or how at peace you felt when you trekked to that waterfall out west. Exercising outdoors in the fresh air doubles the positive impacts and is a sure way to overcome a stressed and anxious mind.
The five above tips might not be for everyone, but if your anxious mind is taking its toll on your mental health, consider exercise as a free and accessible strategy to boost your spirits today.
About The Author
Luke Rabone is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) based in Brisbane, Australia. Since becoming an AEP back in 2011, he has guided hundreds of patients to overcome injuries and conditions to better their quality of life through exercise and movement.
Luke and his team of AEPs at Restart Exercise Physiology specialise in providing personalised solutions to common health challenges, including improving mental health outcomes. They provide such patients with clarity on what to do next to achieve their health and wellness goals.
During the pandemic they have continued to provide home visits, outdoor sessions and TeleHealth consults, and look forward to returning to their gym locations once restrictions further lift.
To follow Restart more closely, visit https://www.facebook.com/restartep.com.au/