Even if you don’t, READ THIS POST. Exercise, or more accurately, moving, is so crucial to a normal healthy brain and body, that science tells us not moving is probably more unhealthy than smoking.
Exercise balances and normalizes our testosterone and estrogen. Men, you want more testosterone as you age? Exercise. Women: bad periods, rough PMS, menopause? Exercise exercise exercise. Moving our muscles and stressing them, reduces the inflammatory conditions of these cyclical changes. Ever been PMSing, worked out, and then felt so. much. better.?
More benefits: exercise, any exercise that makes our muscle move and feel a little stress, causes the muscle cells to make special proteins that go through our blood, into our brain and GROW IT.
Parents, this applies to kids too.
When our muscles move, they create a protein called BDNF ( brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor). BDNF literally goes to the brain neurons, and waters and fertilizes them.
When our muscles move, our neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, GABA) are “balanced”. The percent of studies showing that exercise reduces anxiety and depression better than every single drug on the market? About 100%. With no negative side effects.
As a matter of fact, looking at us biologically and ancestrally, we’ve been created to move (forage/hunt for food, shelter, mates) to stimulate productive brain activity. Moving makes us smarter and better able to cope with life.
Several studies show that if we want to learn new skills or facts, exercise first. It stimulates pathways that allow us to build memories/learn in our brain. There’s a caveat though. If you think you’ll do your learning while you exercise, say, studying on the elliptical or treadmill ( one of my preferred methods when I went to Nutritional Therapy school), keep the exercise “steady state”, and not anaerobic.
Exercise that’s too hard temporarily shuttles nutrients away from our learning centers; exercise that’s easily doable increases nutrients to the learning centers. That’s just a word of caution on learning while exercising, not a warning against hard exercise, because the benefits of hard exercise are numerous.
Or not. It depends on how you feel about it.
Here we get to exercise and stress. I said that of the thousands of studies comparing all the drugs on the market to exercise for relief from anxiety and depression, exercise wins every time. Hands down.
When we feel “stress”, we’re actually feeling the results from a whole bunch of stress “chemicals”. (we’re a chemistry set, not a math equation). Whether our stress is real or imaginary, from traffic or a fight with a spouse or an actual threat to our lives, the chemistry is the same.
Our adrenal glands release epinephrine and cortisol to prepare us to physically defend or save ourselves. Our heart rate increases. Our blood pressure increases. Our digestion stops. Our arteries constrict. Our muscle cells dump their magnesium (magnesium relaxes us, but the brain thinks we need to be tense), and **** cells become Insulin Resistant.
When cortisol is in the blood, FAT CAN NOT BE BURNED, JUST STORED. In this state,our body actually tears apart muscle tissue and converts it to glucose/sugar to burn instead of using the fat in our butt.
We need to manage our stress, and exercise does that! Most of the time.
Unfortunately, some people are so scared of exercise, so adverse to a whole – imaginary – negative scenario they’re created in their minds, that they have “Exercise Induced Anxiety”. I stole that from one of my clients who used that term to describe herself.
I get it. Gym class was traumatic for a lot of us. It left some scars. But I know former athletes who don’t like to workout anymore either. Their younger athletic years were formed by coaches and teammates telling them what to do and how. Independently exercising, which is pretty much Adult Exercise, isn’t appealing, or motivating, so they don’t do it.
The latest stats from the CDC on who exercises show us that only 20.4% of adults over 18 exercise regularly.
No wonder we have 70% overweight and on pharmaceutical drugs in this country!
What to do? Be determined. Set your mind that you’re going to move every day and you’re going to like it. Honestly. It’s that simple. Oh, and have a plan. Write it down. Use alarms and calendars and verbalize to friends and family your intentions.
If you already work out every day, you’re golden. If you struggle with with either fitting exercise in or moving at all, listen up.
1) Pick something that doesn’t sound scary:
-walk with a friend or a kid or a dog
-play a game in the yard with your kids
-set an alarm on your phone and walk up and down the stairs (in your office or home) 4 or 5 times a day
-set an alarm on your phone and do a wall squat or plank 4 or 5 times a day
2) Pick something fun:
-join a weight lifting class
-join a beginner yoga class
-join a beginner group fitness class
3) Set Your Self Up For Success
-pack your clothes the night before
-pack a bag and water bottle the night before
-pick a sport or a class or an activity that’s appropriate for your fitness level and not something you’re going to be so sore and fatigued afterwards that you never want to come back
-put it on your calendar, and then stick to the schedule. If you have kids that need to be included, either driving them to the gym or having them with you, CONSIDER THAT. It takes time to get kids in the car – out of the car – into the gym. Learn to become a Time Master, and teach them how to do it too. That’s a pretty crucial skill to have.
Honestly, we can’t afford NOT to exercise or move. Our body was designed by God for us to move.
Want a great book to inspire you to get off your butt and sweat a little it? Spark, by John J. Ratey, MD. It’s loaded with information that even I’ve never seen before, and I read everything about exercise that I can get my hands on.
One more reason to exercise: Exercise GIVES us energy, it doesn’t steal it or drain it, it creates it. Who doesn’t want more energy?