Feeling a bit low and struggling to know want to do about it? Then turn to exercise, as its key to lifting those dark clouds. Holborn VPT Andrew Julien explains how getting into a sweat on a regular basis can be the perfect antidote to the blues.
Science has shown us that a high demand of physical activity can do a lot more for the human body than just change its appearance. Many people tend to associate health and fitness with "body transforming" and often forget that the human body is more than just a bunch of muscles and the heart.
The entire body - its organs, blood transportation and every little cell we contain - reacts to the way we treat our bodies. We have all heard the saying "you are what you eat!" Eating hamburgers all day is not going to give you that superman frame, whether you wear the t-shirt or not. The same goes for our frame of mind, if you continuously go around fuelling negative thoughts and energy, the body and mind will openly welcome just that, negative thoughts and feedback. These thoughts will then encourage our motivation to drop, which can then lead to a more dark and deeper position, depression. Depression is a serious matter, and often those that suffer with it look to medication to make everything right, when they should be informed that physical fitness could be the best cure.
The mind tells the body what to do, we already know this. However, the more physically prepared the body is the stronger and more positive the mind will become also. When the body undergoes a workout usually of higher intensity it releases endorphins and these endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. This is why those that suffer with stress are encouraged to use stress balls whenever they feel their tension levels rising due to whatever reason.
Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. The more endorphins we have the happier the mind and body is. Endorphins work as little soldiers in the body. When we fall and hurt our knees a group of endorphins are sent to that area in order to reduce the pain. On the other hand, it’s easier for endorphins to react when the body feels physical pain. When the brain is under pressure stress and mental pain occurs, it is harder for endorphins to play a role due to the source being what’s under attack (brain). This is where exercise plays its role.
Endorphins are sent to the brain and happy thoughts destroy all the negative ones. However, in order to produce endorphins, we must train at a high intensity, this may include heavy weights or a long run, this is where the term "runners high" comes from. Individuals that often finish runs feeling extremely satisfied with themselves.
Regular training and the build up of endorphins also help us with sleep, more sleep means more time for the brain to recover and dream up its own ideas. The brain being at rest enables it to be away from reality which helps reduce stress of real life.
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilise mood while also improving one’s self-esteem.
When suffering with depression, even physical fitness can be difficult to pick up on your own. Joining a group exercise class is a great way to start and also a great way to meet others. If big groups are difficult then try training with a friend. As we continue to train we begin to believe in ourselves a lot more, we start to push ourselves a lot more, change mentally as we become more motivated within ourselves, walk taller, react quicker and most importantly welcome a new version of ourselves, inside and out.
Whether you find comfort through running, strength training, yoga or physical combat. Let’s kick the depressive mindset by introducing health and fitness and its benefits.