Everything I read, everywhere I look, the advice is to exercise …. Not sadly just for the first 3 days in January (which is usually my attempt at a New Year’s resolution of being a new healthy version of me), but as part of the structure and routine of one’s life.
Structure and routine are not, and have not, ever been a part of my life. I’m an all or nothing person. When I drink, it’s to excess. When I exercise, it’s until I pass out with low blood sugar issues. If I’m happy, I’m just a tad too frenetically ecstatic and when I’m feeling down, I start googling the best places to die in Europe. (A slightly extreme example, but that’s my point).
I friend recently, and very kindly, gave me a pot plant. An Amaryllis to be specific. Now, I’m a pretty good gardener with RHS qualifications coming out of every known orifice, and yet, give me an indoor plant and frankly you can give it a fortnight. It’s the routine and commitment of remembering to water it, feed it and generally look after it that I struggle with … quite how my children have survived I’m not entirely sure.
Consistency is not part of my genetic make up or perhaps more likely, not one of my life skills.
So, what exactly is it that is so valuable about taking exercise?
Some of the best information I’ve found comes from HG (Helpguide.org) who have a collaboration with Harvard Medical School and their findings are pretty conclusive. Do go to their website if you have time – it’s brilliant. In short …..
- It releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good.
- It promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being
- Exercise can serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
- Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood
- People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives.
- Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication, but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
- Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins.
- As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body.
- Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels
- Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma.
Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise
Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.
Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns.
More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go.
Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.
If you’ve managed to read through that lot, then your levels of commitment aren’t too bad …. I think that’s enough information even for me!
I’m feeling inspired …. and now just have to dig out the trainers and do it …..
As for the Amaryllis, it’s looking a little flaccid. The children are alive and kicking however ….