“Eat, sleep, run, repeat’ Unknown
I want to share a secret with you about my own recovery journey. During the darkest hours of my mid life crisis I struggled with fatigue, low mood & constant worry. Changing my thinking patterns helped, eating healthily helped, talking to my counselor and supportive friends and family helped but it wasn’t until I started intense exercise that I truly began to feel permanently upbeat and energized for life!
Once I discovered the amazing benefits of intense exercise, the other coping skills were also much easier to use. Life didn’t get any easier – if anything the problems of my mid-life tsunamis got worse but my set backs in life did not become setbacks in wellbeing.
In fact, the more challenging my circumstances became the more crucial intense exercise was for my wellbeing. By training intensively – often to the point of exhaustion I slept much better, ate healthily and avoided worry and over thinking by being constantly busy with exercise. During some of the most difficult times I set some massive stretch goals like completing a half iron man triathlon in the desert with only 8 weeks preparation!
Such massive goals required total commitment and focus leaving absolutely no room for idle time, worrying, laziness or bad habits providing the healthiest of distractions in otherwise unchangeable circumstances. There were other benefits too. My fitness, physique and weight were not ideal as would be expected by someone going through so much turmoil so the huge amount of exercise and personal training I completed quickly got my body back into shape improving my confidence and self esteem.
Those darker times have long since past but I have been regularly reminded of the link between intense exercise and an upbeat mood when my ‘first world’ problems get me down.
The Benefits of Exercise on Mood & Recovery
So why is exercise so important in recovery and maintaining an upbeat mood?
There is an enormous amount of research on the benefits of physical activity in recovery from depression. Simply type “physical activity and depression” into Google and you will see what I mean. There are some really well established facts about exercise and mood such as:
1. Exercise is an effective low-cost proven part of the effective treatment of depression.
2. People who are physically active have a much lower incidence of depression.
3. Treatment studies on depression show both physical and psychological benefits of regular exercise.
4. The onset of benefits of an ‘anti-depressant’ effect of exercise have been observed as early as 2 weeks into the recovery cycle.
5. People who exercise have lower risks of other related mental health problems such as anxiety, stress, sleep disorders and pain syndromes.
The underlying explanation for why exercise improves mood is pretty straightforward. When people get depressed, sad or anxious they suffer a range of symptoms to do with lowered energy levels and sleep disturbance leaving them feeling even more exhausted and tired creating a vicious cycle of fatigue – this explains the occurrence of the physical symptoms. The psychological symptoms are brought on by negative thinking and worry about our lack of coping as we become increasingly pre-occupied by our tiredness, sadness and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and become more socially withdrawn and isolated.
A regime of intense exercise reverses the effects of the distressing physical and psychological symptoms. Intense exercise improves people’s physical wellbeing through the release of endorphins, cardiovascular and muscular effects that both improve fitness and disrupt the cycle of fatigue-inactivity-loss of fitness, as well as improved sleep quality. Intense exercise also improves psychological wellbeing through distraction from negative thoughts and worry, positive social feedback and interactions, improved self-esteem and body image.
It should also be noted that for people who have injuries or health conditions that limit their ability to exercise, even 3×10 minute walks or gentle exercise sessions daily can make a big difference!
Your Choice: Train Insane or Remain The Same!
So now you know more about the amazing benefits of intense exercise through both my own personal journey and the scientific facts and figures you have a choice to consider.
When it comes to your own exercise and mood management you get to choose between (1) exercising regularly and feeling energetic and upbeat OR (2) skipping your exercise sessions because you don’t feel motivated only to feel even worse….Hmmm seems like a ‘no brainer’ to me!
I’m getting my running shoes on now……
Ride the Waves of Life!
The Stress Surfer
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