Tried and True Connection between Exercise and Mental Health

Tried and True Connection between Exercise and Mental Health

“Exercise is good for you” is a phrase that we hear often.

But do you ever wonder how broad the meaning of this phrase actually is?

We have categorized physical exercise as a way to shed those extra pounds or gain some muscle. I used to think the same, until one fine day, my doctor suggested me to work out to alleviate my anxiety issues.

I was silly not to ask him about why he suggested that. instead, I walked out of his office, thinking, “do I look fat to him?”

I stood on the digital weighing scale. It denied the fact that I have put on any extra kilos. I stood in front of the full-length mirror and examined myself turning around. Nope, no ugly flaps visible anywhere.

It was then when I finally decided to search for other benefits of exercise and its impact on mental health. From several pieces of research and expert advice to stories of people who claimed that it worked, I found plenty of evidence supporting the contribution of exercise towards mental peace.

Working out just doesn’t make you physically stronger, but mentally too!

The Healthy-Happy Life Connection Connection between Exercise and Mental Health

Read on to know how physical workout brings you mood stability and positively impact your mental capabilities.

1. Physical exercise is a way to releases stress

A while back, I read a motivating anonymous quote about stress, which was,

“One year from now, everything that you are stressed about won't even matter.”

Although it's true, the moments when stress overpowers us, everything seems bleak. It literally strips you off from your mental and physical abilities.

Stress Relief

Minimizing the harmful effects of stress is possible if you do exercise regularly. The first obvious benefit of it will be that your mind will be diverted away from stressful thoughts.

Through their randomized controlled trial, researchers from Spain found out that perceived stress can be reduced after five weeks of practicing both mindful meditation and physical exercise as recovery strategies. They added that physical activity had better results than mindful meditation.

Yoga, a form of physical exercise that focuses on body stretching and breathing, has been known to reduce stress. It lowers down the levels of Cortisol, the stress hormone.

Regular exercise will also regulate your adrenaline levels, another hormone that plays a crucial role in sending impulses to organs for a response.

2. Induces sleep

Insomnia is the leading cause of deterioration of mental health. It is linked with symptoms of anxiety and depression, on which exercise can pose a strong impact.

Why sleep is important

If you want a sound and restful sleep, start working out regularly. Health experts suggest a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise session every day to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.

Be careful not to work out too close to bedtime, as that may hamper your sleep. Try to go for a jog or exercise early in the morning.

3. Eases symptoms of depression and anxiety

It's tough to pick yourself up and have enough motivation to exercise if you have depression. However, being able to do that will alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety quite efficiently.

It will help if you start with less intense physical activity like gardening or walking whenever you notice anxiety symptoms are kicking in. Once you start seeing improvement in your symptoms, you can go for moderate-intensity workouts. Experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise for up to 5 days a week to cure symptoms of depression.

Reduces depression

The key is to be regular and focus on positivity for better and long-lasting outcomes.

4. Reduces fatigue

Poor diet, irregular sleep patterns, and our never-ending relationship with our devices pose a harmful impact on our mental health. Without doing any strenuous work, we tend to feel fatigued.

The ‘feel-good' hormones Endorphins are released when you start doing exercise. Endorphin release gives your energy a significant boost that can help subside tiredness.

Consequently, you will feel more energized, alert, and motivated.

In 2008, a study was conducted on sedentary young adults who started doing moderate to low intensity exercise. Favorable outcomes were achieved after a period of 6 weeks, where participants reported relief in fatigue symptoms and high energy levels.

5. Provides an outlet for frustration and irritation

I grew up watching action movies where the protagonist often unleashes his anger on the poor punching bag. It turns out; it actually makes sense.

The physical work you do while doing exercise gives you an outlet for your intense feelings like anger, frustration, and irritability. These feelings pose severe effects on our physical and mental health and force us to make impulsive decisions that may backfire later.

Try venting them out with physical activity like running or punching a pillow to curb these kinds of feelings. You can also use your negative emotions productively by grabbing a mop and cleaning your house the next time you feel frustrated over anything.

6. Instills feelings of joy by endorphin release

As stated above, exercise releases endorphins, which mitigate negative feelings. When you engage in physical activity, your brain's oxygen supply is increased, and endorphins are released. As a result, your serotonin levels are elevated, and the mood is regulated.

Along with endorphins and serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help improve our mood.

But do we have to do long workouts daily to achieve that?

Research suggests that as less as 15 minutes of physical activity every day or several times a week can increase your positive vibes. It means that you can enjoy feelings of joy even if you take a 15-minute walk around your area in your comfortable tank top and PJ shorts! Personally, for me, going outdoors, socializing a bit, and looking at nature is enough to feel happiness and contentment.

The takeaway?

Short but regular physical activity is way more useful to boost mental health than prolonged strenuous exercise done occasionally.

7. Suggested by health practitioners to manage several mental health issues

As exercise prevents cognitive decline, it is highly recommended by doctors to treat and manage several mental illnesses. In conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and depression, negative thoughts are uncontrollable.

Hence, the feel-good and motivational impact of exercise is useful to provide the much-needed positivity to patients suffering from these conditions. It also curbs the feelings of social withdrawal and low self-esteem.

Exercise increases the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF. It is a protein that helps grow new brain cells and enhances the life of existing ones. Exercise programs tailored to patients suffering from mental illnesses can have a tremendous impact on their recovery.

Summing up

Apart from losing fat, treating cardiovascular diseases, and controlling diabetes, exercise will also effectively contribute to your mental health and peace.

The impact of physical exercise on our bodies is tremendous. Not only physical but mental well-being can be achieved if we indulge in regular exercise.

Depending on your ability and interest, you can choose a sport like a football, badminton, swimming, cycling, or running as an alternative to working out.

Playing a sport will give you even higher motivation.

Prioritizing mental health is extremely important to improve our quality of life and be a productive and positive member of society. Therefore, start being physically active to work on your mental health from today.


5 Pilates Exercises Men Can Do That Build Muscles

5 Pilates Exercises Men Can Do That Build Muscles

In the old days, it was all about exercise; you would carry weights and do cardio workouts to get the dream body you’ve always wanted. But as time passed by, different kind of practices began to surface, and one of them was Pilates.

Being an all-time favorite among women who want to get their body toned, there are more than a few reasons why men should start doing Pilates. With health benefits that go beyond strength training, there are five legit ways in which men can gain substantial muscle mass through Pilates.

Read more to find out why this practice provides the missing link to your workout routines.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of exercises which focuses on strengthening your body's core which involves the abdomen, the lower back, the thighs, and the obliques. It makes use of specialized equipment to build endurance and flexibility along these areas.

Unlike traditional exercises, Pilates focuses on balance which makes it similar to yoga. It is not like those high-intensity workouts that pump your body for short periods of time either. Think about it as more controlled form of exercise that requires both your mind and your body to work together to get the most optimal results.

pilates yoga

History of Pilates

Developed by the German-born Joseph Pilates, this fitness method was designed to unify the mind and body connection. Joseph, who believed that both mind and body are interrelated, made a goal throughout his physical training to develop a form of exercise where the mental and physical body would come more into focus.

Inspired by his gymnast father, he believed that when done correctly, Pilates as a physical system will help improve body alignment and balance. The equipment, which he called “apparatus” is therefore supposed to aid in the conditioning, strengthening, and stretching of the muscles around the core.

Benefits of Pilates

You might feel like visiting your physiotherapist before starting Pilates, but before doing that, you need to find out more about the benefits that can be brought to your life by this practice.

benefits of pilates

Here are some well-informed, scientifically validated results:

  • It relieves back pains
    Back pain is an increasing problem that occurs in many people. A lot of office seats aren’t ergonomic, and a lot of human activities reinforce lousy posture which can ultimately lead to back pains. When you take Pilates for a minimum of four weeks, the tight muscles of your lower back will start to relax, and this will lessen the discomfort you feel.
  • It improves balance
    Most Pilates exercises require you to focus on your balance because if you don’t, you might fall off (literally!). Aside from stability training, the activities you’ll perform will help you be more self-aware of how your brain and body communicate in order to achieve the right posture and balance during training.
  • It strengthens your core
    One of the more common benefits of Pilates is strengthening the core. Since the focus of Pilates is in this area, there is no doubt that it will push your core muscles to the limit. And it will also help in sculpting abs.
  • It reinforces proper posture
    Lastly (although there are a lot more benefits to Pilates than these four), Pilates reinforces proper posture. The routine exercises will target specific muscles, and you will regain not only strength and balance but your posture will significantly improve for the better.

Pilates Exercises that Build Muscle

There is a misconception that Pilates is only for women, but this is far from the truth. Some men think that Pilates is just another way to do stretches, but in reality, these controlled stretches require more than just moving your limbs.

Women are not the only ones who need to strengthen their muscles and build their core either. Pilates also benefits that men who want to achieve excellent muscle condition. If you find yourself drawn to Pilates but don’t know how to start, you can try these five exercises that will help build your muscles.

back extension

Back Extensions

Back extensions are an excellent start for men who want to warm up their muscles. This exercise focuses on extending your spinal cord to release the tension from the bones and muscles. First, start by lying flat on your belly. As you gently raise your legs and your head forming an upward C, focus on your abdomen.

Bicycle crunches

Bicycle crunches, which is considered one of the most challenging muscle exercises in Pilates, is another type of activity that strengthens your core. You start this practice with your back lying on the mat. Place your hands at the back of your head. Positioning your hands like this will help you raise your head to meet your knees. Then lift both your legs and start by moving one knee towards the middle of your core while the opposite elbow meets your knee.

Supine Twist

The supine twist is a great exercise to further challenge your core and at the same time stretch out your spine. To do this, lie on a mat with your hands on your sides facing upward. Then, raise your legs to form a right angle with the floor. You can also lift them towards your chest and wrap your arms around it.

Leg Changes

Leg changes work out your abdomen more than your thighs. Start by raising your legs in a 90-degree angle to the floor. Slowly bring down one leg until your feet touch the mat and bring it up after a few seconds. Repeat the movement with the other leg.

Ball Rolls

For a full workout of your core, you can try ball rolls. As the name suggests, you will have to curl up into a ball until your knees reach your forehand. Start by lying flat on your back with your stomach tucked in. Slowly bring your knees to your chest with your arms hugging your legs. Continue moving your knees toward to your forehead with your tailbone curling up.

Pilates is highly beneficial for both men and women. However, to see the benefits of this exercise, you have to do at least four weeks’ worth of Pilates sessions. For other tips and health recommendations, it is advisable to ask your physical therapist for exercises that can improve your overall health.

About the author: Melanie of Capital Physiotherapy

Melanie graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from the University of Melbourne. During her degree, she obtained clinical experience throughout the public and private systems. Melanie has completed all levels of Mat clinical Pilates from APPI (Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute). She is one of the physiotherapists at Capital Physiotherapy.

Fit Parent or Fat Parent: 4 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy After Having Kids

Fit Parent or Fat Parent: 4 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy After Having Kids

You were fit in college – maybe even an athlete.  You ran. You worked out. You ate whatever you wanted, and yet you were still in shape.

Now? Not so much.

Life before kids versus after kids? Hmmm... or just wishful thinking

Life before kids versus after kids? Hmmm… or just wishful thinking

Or, more accurately, much more. You’re a parent, and being a parent is a full-time job… plus, you may have a full-time job, too. You probably still eat whatever you want, but you feel guilty when you do, and often you eat things shaped like stars, covered in cheese, or that were once parts of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into fun shapes.

What about the working out part?

You don’t run anymore, and when you do workout, it’s not as intense or long as it once was. You meant to run the other day, but your kid had that thing. Then you were going to dust off the bike, but your other kid had that other thing. You know how it goes – you don’t get to exercise because of your kids.

WHOA, hold up!

Let’s look at that – you don’t get to workout because of your kids?

My friend, that’s exactly why you should – because of your kids. They need you to be there for them for the long haul, and be a role model of health and wellness. That’s how they learn their habits. The reason you don’t get to workout is that you haven’t figured out how to balance being a parent and exerciser.

4 Ideas to Stay Fit and Healthy After Becoming a Parent

Fit parents vs Fat parents... it's a lifestyle not a state of being

Fit parents vs Fat parents… it's a lifestyle not a state of being

So I can sit here and make you feel bad for not prioritizing your time differently, or for not waking up early when you mean to, or I can help you find ways to both be a parent and be fit (and work full-time, if that’s something you also do). As a parent, I’m speaking from personal experience. As a certified personal trainer and a coach, I’m speaking from the experience of helping others turn around their lives, including people with kids. So, basically, I know it can be done, and it’s easier than most people think it is…

Idea 1 – Kids Come Along for the (Self-Powered) Ride

There are a few options to bring your kids with you as you workout. Jogging strollers, those little buggy things you can tow on your bike, add-on seat-and-wheel-thingies (the official name, of course) for your kid (or even a tandem bike) – there are options to run or ride and still spend time with your child.  Their age will dictate some of what you can do – you’re not going to run with a 15-year-old in a Bob Stroller, now will you? But that 15-year-old can lace up with you. Think you need to bond with your kid, I promise you there are few better ways than going for a run, hike, walk or ride together.  The point is, you can spend time with them and get exercise (for both of you).

Idea 2 – Put ‘Em to Work

Similarly, kids find things like yard work and shoveling snow very fun. I know, they’re nuts, right? Shoveling snow? They obviously didn’t live in Boston last winter. But they do love this stuff. So, guess what – let them join you. No, I don’t mean to let them run the power equipment with sharp, spinning blades, but let them rake, shovel, weed, etc.  Don’t make them do the work alone, but let them do it with you.  And don’t worry about them not doing it right – the point is to have them out there, with you, moving and participating (and you doing the same!). This is another way to get active, and have your kids active with you so you’re spending time with them and getting done the chores you need to get done.

Idea 3 – CUYOP (Commute Under Your Own Power)

Bryan and child riding a bike 2

Quality father and son time… (note to reader – no electronics!)

This is a term I coined a few years ago, and it means Commute Under Your Own Power. I use CUYOP to run or ride to work so I can kill a few birds with one stone:

  • I get a longer cardio workout than I would otherwise get, and can opt for 2-a-days by doing it to and from work
  • I am not away from home or cutting out on work to fit in the workout
  • I don’t have to wake up super early to get some cardio in since I’m just substituting time in traffic with time on my feet
  • I save gas, parking and other commuter costs

The one cost to CUYOPing your way to work is that you need a shower there (some gyms let you join just to use their shower at a lower cost…most don’t, though).  Or at least I do. I sweat a lot. You may be a magical, sweat-proof exerciser. Or you may not be working hard enough to get a benefit. If you do need a gym membership, remember that most health insurers and many employers give you money toward gym membership, so you can defray some of the cost that way. And you may need a good running backpack (works well for cycling, too) so you can bring your clothes. OK, that’s actually two costs. A nice trick is to use days you don’t CUYOP to leave a few outfits at work if you can.

But CUYOPing doesn’t just have to be for you to get to work. This year, my son started elementary school about a mile from our home. I walked him to school once a week, and it was awesome. We walked for 20 minutes to get there, and then I could walk, run or skip (FYI – I never skipped) home (or somewhere else to extend the exercise). A 20-minute walk is pretty good for a six-year-old, and we moved at a good pace, but we also talked a ton, and he learned a lesson about not just driving everywhere, He loved it.  You can CUYOP with your kids to all kinds of things – sports games and practices, ‘running’ errands (literally), going out for dinner, and more.

Of course, this is dependent on where you live relative to where you’re going, but there’s no rule that says it has to start and end at your home. For example, when I CUYOPed to work by running, I’d almost always ride my bike to the train station (about 3 miles away), and run from there (or take the train part of the way – depending on how far I wanted to run that day). Then I would either take the train back to my bike to ride the rest of the way home or train it part of the way, and get a nice little run in the evening before hopping back on my bike. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that in the spring and summer as a way to enjoy the later sunsets, get some time to think, clear my mind, and be ready to give my all to my family. You’d be surprised how much working all day and sitting in traffic takes away from your ability to walk in the door and be your best home-self.

Idea 4 – Be Coach Dad or Coach Mom

Lead by example... and do one better - include your child in your activities.

Lead by example… and do one better – include your child in your activities.

You can also be involved in your kids’ physical activity by volunteering to coach a team they play in. The trick here is to actually take part in practice yourself. Demonstrate the drills, run the lines and get into it.  Don’t sit there with a clipboard and direct, but really engage. I promise you that you’ll get so much more out of the experience, you’ll connect with the kids better, and you’ll get some steps to register on your fitness tracker.

If your kids don’t play a sport, or there are no coaching positions open, look at family sport options. Pete at Runblogger does karate with his kids and yoga with his wife, and loves both (the activities, I mean…though I’m sure he loves his kids and wife). I have wanted to be a ninja since I was about my son’s age, so joining him in his Kenpo class would be amazing. Unfortunately, it’s kids-only now, but I do plan to start taking it this fall, so we could do it together when he gets old enough to be in an all-ages class.

The Point is to Make a Point of Being an “active” role model for your kids

The point to all of this is that it can be done – you can be a parent and be someone who is active.  Your kids and their schedules aren’t the reason why you can’t. Your kids are absolutely the reason why you should, and now it’s up to you with all your adult smarts and ingenuity to look for little ways to work in healthy activity every day. The best thing is, you’ll find quickly that it’s self-perpetuating, so any heavy lifting you think you have to do to make it work soon won’t feel so heavy, and novel and fun ideas will present themselves.  Now go have fun!

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Bryan Falchuk Bio Pic 2015Author Bio

Bryan Falchuk is the founder of health and fitness coaching and training. He spent the first 2/3 of his life overweight or battling being overweight before transforming his life into one focused on health, fitness and happiness. He coaches and trains people looking to change their lives, has an active YouTube channel and podcast, and shares his own health journey and inspiration via his blog, Instagram and Twitter.

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