Christmas and the new year are right around the corner, and these events can bring with them last-minute shopping dashes, visits from relatives and plenty of eating. We all need a HEALTHY way to combat the stresses that often arrive hand-in-hand with our favourite celebrations.
What’s the solution? If you haven't worked it out already – it's exercise! Doesn’t it often feel like the world's problems can be solved after an intensive workout? We walk out of the gym like Clint Eastwood from an old saloon; a trail of destruction in our paths, full of endorphins, blowing smoke from our revolvers as we get back on the horse and back to business. As it turns out, that post-workout high is doing us a world of good.
Exercise could be your secret weapon against stress and anxiety
Research shows aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, cycling and even gardening and dancing can all reduce anxiety and depression[i]. Weight training has also been found to help those who have high levels of anxiety[ii]. Other research shows that exercise improves cognitive function and self-esteem[iii], giving both your brain and your confidence a boost.
Why the improvement in mood after exercise?
There are several areas of our brains that are thought to be stimulated by a good workout, particularly within the limbic system. This includes the amygdala, the centre for emotions including fear when stressed; and the hippocampus, which is where we process mood, motivation and memoriesi. All up, the benefits for our mental and physical health can include:
• Better sleep and less tiredness (leading to increased mental alertness)
• Stress relief
• Greater endurance, energy and stamina
• An improvement in mood
• A reduction in cholesterol
• Weight loss
• Improved cardiovascular fitness
• An improved sex drive
It doesn't get much better than that!
How much exercise makes a difference?
Even a short workout can have its advantages. As written in the report Exercise for Mental Health:
"Thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking for 3 days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits. Moreover, these 30 minutes need not to be continuous; three 10-minute walks are believed to be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk"i.
Put simply, aim for anything that gets your blood pumping at the gym: weight lifting and/or power lifting, running, cycling, walking on the treadmill, or even your exclusive Classes on Demand. Any of these can do the trick at one of the most hectic times of the year.
No matter how busy you get, make sure you keep swiping your Plus Fitness gym card to keep the stress and anxiety wolves at bay. Because let's be honest – at this time of the year, all we want is reindeers!
[i] Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty FD. Exercise for Mental Health. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2006;8(2):106.
[ii] Hale BS. Raglin JS. State anxiety responses to acute resistance training and step aerobic exercise across eight weeks of training. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2002 Mar;42(1):108-12.
[iii] Callaghan P. Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care? J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2004;11:476–483