(Remember to consult a physician before starting a new exercise routine.)
Let’s start with a story. Sarah woke up and went to work. She got caught in a traffic jam on the way there. Her sun roof was stuck in the open position and it started to rain. She got to work late and soaking wet before she realized she had forgotten her lunch. She got a paper-cut from filing papers, and then turned and stubbed her toe on the desk. She got coffee from the break room and ended up spilling part of it on her pants. After lunch Sarah discovered that her computer had deleted a document she had been working on earlier. Sarah headed home in, what seemed like, the same traffic she came to work in. She came home to her dog that had gotten into the trash.
Sarah takes a deep breath, puts on her sneakers, and goes for a run.
Sarah gets back a half an hour later, feeling refreshed.
I think we can agree that Sarah’s day was pretty trying. After a day like that, even I would be hard pressed to stick to a running plan. But look at her attitude after her run—she’s refreshed. Her seems to have forgotten about her stressors, or at least put them into perspective.
Ok, so maybe exercising doesn't quite wipe out problems just like that.
Here are a few great things that it really does do for you:
*Reasonable exercising is a good coping mechanism when it comes to stress
*Running or walking can act as meditation in motion
*Exercising has been proven to decrease depression severity in some instances
*Exercise increases the blood flow to the brain, increasing memory
Other than a great way to stay in shape, running or walking is beneficial for mental health. It can be a mood stabilizer and, as stated earlier, a good coping mechanism.
There are 3 stages to stress: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Exercise helps push your body past the resistance stage. By consciously pushing your body into a stressed state (increasing breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and releasing epinephrine), you are helping to ensure that your body will come out of that state instead of lingering in the resistance stage until you reach
exhaustion. If you stay in the exhaustion phase for too long, or rather, are chronically stressed, you may be at higher risk for ulcers, heart disease, and mental illness.
All this is to say, RELAX!...and if you can’t, then go for a run!
Running has become, to some people, meditation in motion. If exercise is done alone, it can be a time of reflection for the day, and even for your life. There have been many a run where I feel like I have figured out how to put an end to the energy crisis, amassed a 5 year plan for my life, and concluded the meaning of life. Not that I can always recall what I thought about once I end the run, but it did give me time to simply think. How often in your busy life do you find time for that? Running, walking, or exercising can also just be a time to seriously rock out to your favorite music. Mouthing the words to“Eye of the Tiger,” while on the treadmill isn’t a bad thing. Either way, exercising can often give you time to reach a new perspective on what’s going on in your life.
So we’re not all like Sarah. Exercising isn’t going to magically fix all of our stressors, but it can give us a chance to meditate, cope, or rock out. Sometimes it feels like we can’t take one more step, let alone go for a run. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: The first step is the hardest, then you’ll be on to fixing the world hunger crisis. Get out there and run! Your mental health is depending on it!
Good luck, and see you June 21 at Lite Up the Nite!
Look for the next blog post March 29 when I discuss how to get over a bad running day.
Have a story you want to share about how mental health or exercise has affected your life? Consider sharing it on this blog! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story!