Throughout our lives, we all experience some level of anxiety, stress, trouble sleeping and maybe even depression at times. Additionally, some believe that our bodies aren’t producing enough endorphins, causing an endorphin deficiency. Endorphin deficiency or just experiencing the blues, I think we can all agree that exercise certainly leaves you feeling good, whether it was a quick 10-minute jog or a full hour on all types of equipment. Let’s see how our body, and particularly our brain, reacts to exercise. What exactly are endorphins? When we start to exercise, our body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with certain receptors in the brain that results in reducing our perception of pain. Endorphins trigger a positive boost in mood, feelings of euphoria and well-being in the body, and lower rates of depression, anxiety, and stress. Easily enough, the first step to mental wellbeing is to engage in a routine physical activity for 30 minutes, preferably 3 to 5 times a week, in order to jump-start those golden endorphins in the body.
Physical activities in the great outdoors can have a tremendous boost to your mental wellbeing by breathing that fresh air and surrounded by nature. See about incorporating a jog, hike or a brisk walk at your favorite park, or bike ride along a nice scenic trail into your week. Any kind of physical activity delivers much-needed oxygen to the brain, improving your memory, reasoning abilities and reaction times. Scientific research has proven that nature has healing power. This experience of connection may be explained by studies that use functional-MRI (activation maps showing which parts of the brain are involved in a particular mental process) in order to measure the brain activity. When participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up, but when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. It appears as though nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment while lifting our confidence and self-esteem. Thanks, Mother Nature, we certainly appreciate it.
Looking for more tricks to up your mental health and happiness? Try out exercises that challenge your brain as well as your body, such as those that test your balance and agility. During challenging exercises the brain is forced to learn new muscle skills, like estimating distance which eventually improves stability. No matter your age group, everyone should strive to keep balance skills and balance’s devoted muscle groups constantly active and in tiptop shape. Start by challenging your body and mind to learn new moves which not only makes you burn extra calories but also pushes the brain to keep your proprioceptors (the “signal” information to the central nervous system about position and movement of body parts) in check. Balance exercises force the brain to learn and control the position of a deficient joint. Some moves to try out:
- Single leg balance with reach
- Single leg dumbbell bicep curls
- Stability ball bridge that can be progressed later with adding a dumbbell chest press
A couple of agility exercises designed to challenge balance while also improving strength include:
- Cone drills such 5-10-5
- Drills using a speed-ladder
Our C2C Change Makers are already doing their part to improve their mental well-being. Participation in group-oriented workouts like a boot-camp class or YouGX group fitness class puts you in an environment with everyone all working hard towards a fitness goal. While there, you are part of a “whole” going forward to finish the class and do something good for yourself. That sense of community and accomplishment alone releases much-needed endorphins in your body. Plus it’s an excellent workout to fuel happiness as it combines exercise and social support all in a positive group environment.
Moderate to high-intensity interval training can bring down your sensitivity to anxiety and stress while improving your cognitive functioning as well! The scientific research that backs up the relationship between exercise and mental health is extensive, we’ve barely scratched the surface here. So go ahead, start your exercise journey now or try adding something new to your existing fitness groove. No time like the present to begin experiencing that natural amazing feeling of a fit body and mind!
Looking for even more personalized motivation? Speak with any member of your club’s friendly team staff about one-on-one personal training with a certified YouCoach today!