Exercise for Mental Health and Well-being
We know how exercise improves our general Health and Fitness, but along with the physical benefits, exercise can also have a huge impact on your mental health and well-being. Exercise is not only great for the body, but also great for the mind. It’s a mood changer!
There’s a strong link between being physically active and improved mental well-being, especially when we learn that depression is strongly associated with illness and even cardiovascular mortality. People who engage in regular exercise at any intensity are less likely to suffer from mental health problems and there’s a vast amount of research showing that exercise can be as effective as medication when it comes to treating certain conditions.
Physical activity is proven to have positive effects on:
Physical activity that is practised as a group also helps enormously in combating social isolation. During a group activity – such as running, classes, dance, team sports, etc. a person is included and engaged in a group of like-minded people. This helps improve motivation levels and alleviate stress and anxiety.
Exercise really can make you feel better WHATEVER your mood is: Motivated, Tired, Angry, Sad or Stressed, so make sure you plan your workout accordingly. Although you may have a training plan to follow or a class you regularly attend, if you’re not on top form that particular day, change your usual workout for something else to suit your mood. There’s really no point in doing a workout that you’re not going to enjoy as it will only worsen your mood if you fail. If you tailor your workout to your emotional needs rather than physical needs, you’ll not only avoid a meltdown but you’ll enjoy the session much more!.
There’s no point in enduring a gruelling run if you’re feeling really tired – go for a brisk walk instead. If you’re feeling angry or stressed, do some weightlifting or boxing (you’ll give your best punches!). But if you’re feeling at your best that day – give it all you’ve got!.
Sometimes the hardest part of a workout is actually getting started, but lace up your trainers, take a deep breath and just do it – I guarantee you’ll feel better for it!.
Rest and Recovery
No matter how extensive your fitness program may be, the time you spend working out is only a part of the process necessary to achieve your fitness goals. If you’re planning your training but not your recovery, you’re not going to fully reap the rewards from your Workouts.
One thing that is often misunderstood is the fact that your body becomes stronger AFTER you exercise and NOT during the actual workout itself. The real secret to getting results depends on what happens during the recovery period following the workout. This is why the correct recovery and rest is so important.
There are different types of recovery – Short-term (which happens immediately after a workout set) and Long-term (the period of time between workout sessions).
Short-term recovery can be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and it’s important to replace energy stores within this period. But the longer recovery period between workouts is the one to focus on, because it’s the time after the workout when the body adapts to the training session. The correct care of your muscles and connective tissue, eating the right type of post workout nutrition, the quality and quantity of sleep and, even the types of clothes you wear, can all promote the post-workout recovery that’s necessary to help you maximise the results from your time spent exercising.
During exercise, your muscles expend energy and experience stress. After exercise, the body needs to replenish energy with carbohydrates and repair tissue with protein so having a post-workout snack with the correct ratio of carbohydrate and protein can help massively. The correct nutrition also assists the release of the muscle-building hormones to repair and build new muscle tissue.
Stretching and Myofascial Release
Stretching, Massage, Foam rollers, Compression balls and Rolling sticks can all help to reduce muscle tightness. If a muscle doesn’t cool-down properly, the collagen fibres (which are part of the connective tissue surrounding each muscle) can create knots. Massage works by manipulating muscle tissue to break up knots and can help reduce muscle tightness and improve joint movement.
Sleep is probably one of the most important factors that can help improve your overall health and fitness. Your body produces most of the hormones needed for tissue repair during sleep so it’s vital to get enough to assist in the recovery process.
Ice, Cold Baths and Cryotherapy
Cold treatments are extremely effective for recovery as they can help cool down the body’s core temperature, reduce inflammation and promote healing in tissue that was used during the workout. The cold temperature brings increased blood to the area, which brings nutrients and oxygen to help promote healing.
Sauna or Hot Tub
The heat from a sauna or hot tub increases the body’s circulation, which removes metabolic waste products while also carrying oxygen and other nutrients necessary to help repair tissue used during the workout.
Alternating between high and low intensity workouts (muscle confusion) either daily, weekly or monthly and taking a few days off every few weeks to allow the body to rest and recover fully.
Wearing Compression clothing before and after a workout is a relatively new form of recovery treatment that may also be effective. The pressure from the tight clothing can improve circulation which will help remove metabolic waste and promote blood flow to help the tissue repair and rebuild.
Too much exercise without enough rest and recovery can lead to injury or illness, both of which could prevent your regular workouts. There are dangers to overtraining without the correct recovery periods between and If you don’t take enough R&R for your muscles to adapt this will certainly affect your ability to achieve your fitness goals.
NEVER forget to include RECOVERY into your Fitness programme!
What is the best Exercise for me?
Finding the ‘best’ Exercise for you can be very confusing. You hear it all the time “The Perfect Workout Plan”, “The one secret workout you need to lose weight”, “Guaranteed to give you a six pack” and for most people who start a fitness plan they’ll eventually stop either through boredom, exhaustion, or because it just isn’t sustainable long term. There really isn’t the ‘best’ workout! The best workout for you is the one that works towards your personal goals, gets results, fits in with your lifestyle and most importantly that you enjoy doing – because if you really don’t enjoy exercising, you’re not going to stick to it!
To find the right Exercise for you ask yourself:
What are your goals?
Are you exercising to lose weight? to sculpt your body? to gain strength? to increase flexibility? to run a marathon? or just to increase your fitness levels? The type of training you choose should be specific to your goals.
Are you seeing results?
Seeing results is a sure indicator that you’re doing the right type of exercise for your goals and generally getting results from your training will motivate you to keep at it. If nothing seems to be changing how you’d like it to be, you’re probably not doing the right exercise for your goals.
Does your training fit into your lifestyle?
You need to determine realistically, what time you have available for training, can you get to the gym or get out for a run? Does a Wednesday evening class cause childcare issues? etc. There’s no point in a 2-hour training session being part of your plan if you don’t have the time to spare. If you’re short of time, planning in a 20-minute home workout will be far more sustainable.
Do you enjoy it?
Probably the most important factor of all! If you look forward to your sessions rather than dread the thought of them, then you’re more likely to keep at it and it’s the consistency of your workouts that will get you to your goal. So, as soon as you feel boredom setting in and your workout starts becomes a chore, change it around!
So, if you’ve been doing the same workout for months and have stopped seeing results – try something new today!
How much do you Sweat ???
When your body temperature rises your glands secrete sweat and the evaporation of moisture from your skin helps you cool off. How much you sweat during exercise is due to a number of factors, including gender, age, genetics, temperature and humidity and it isn’t necessarily always an indication of how hard you’re working or how many calories you’re burning.
Weight plays a role as well. Larger people tend to sweat more, because their bodies generate more heat.
Another contributor is fitness level – Fit people tend to sweat more and sooner during exercise as research suggests that as your fitness level improves, your body’s heat-regulating system becomes more efficient, cooling you down faster and allowing you to work harder.
However, on the flip side, don’t assume that if you’re not sweating you’re not working hard – it could be that your sweat evaporates quickly because you’re exercising in cooler conditions or you just simply may not sweat much!
What exactly is D.O.M.S ?
Aching muscles, sometimes referred to as D.O.M.S (Delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in sometimes 6 to 8 hours after your workout. It may peak around 24 to 48 hours post workout, although this varies depending on the individual. It’s the result of muscle micro trauma, which causes inflammation and soreness, created in your muscles when you’ve introduced a new exercise, activity or increased the intensity or volume of your usual training. It’s your bods way of making adaptations to prepare your muscles to do it again.
Sore Muscles is the most common characteristic of D.O.M.S, but other symptoms such as reduced range of motion and joint stiffness, local swelling and tenderness, and diminished muscle strength can also occur.
How does it occur?
Its the active lengthening of muscle fibres under load (body weight or weights). Think of it like you’re pulling on a rope, and there’s so much force that the rope starts to tear and pull apart. This is when your muscle fibres sustain tiny tears that cause the trauma to them.
When you’ve experienced D.O.M.S before and are a regular exerciser, it may become the Medal after your workout! You’ve pushed yourself and the fact that you can feel it the next day is your reward. However, it doesn’t always mean that you’re not getting a good workout when you’re not crippled the next day. Studies show that muscle soreness isn’t the best indicator of how hard you’ve worked or how fit you are. It’s true that you will start to feel less sore as your body adapts to your training and works more effectively (The reason it’s wise to regularly change your routine) but people also respond differently to pain and soreness.
D.O.M.S isn’t a bad thing!
Muscle trauma is needed to make muscles stimulate protein production and to repair themselves to get bigger and stronger than before so that the muscle soreness doesn’t happen again.
Unfortunately the effects of stretching after your workout don’t always reduce the effects of D.O.M.S. Although while you may not be able to avoid soreness altogether, it’s a good idea to include a warm up and cool-down period as part of your routine. There are other ways to alleviate the symptoms – A massage will move the fluid and blood around in your body which can help the micro trauma in your muscles to heal better, other common ways to treat D.O.M.S include foam rolling, hot and cold showers/baths, Epsom salt, increased protein intake, omega-3 supplementation and sleep. It’s also important to look at your diet to make sure your getting the right balance and enough nutrients to feed your body for the job it’s doing.
There may be times when you overdo it with your workout and feel really bad afterwards. You should be concerned if your level of soreness does not go down significantly after 96 hours, if the pain becomes worse and you start to experience swelling in your limbs, or your urine becomes dark in colour, you should see your doctor. If it’s an injury, you’re more likely to feel it immediately during your workout and you shouldnt ignore this. Soreness, on the other hand, will appear gradually, often the next day.
So although D.O.M.S (unfortunately) can be a horrible after effect of exercise, it happens for a reason – so you can go back and do the workout all over again – this time Stronger!