23 Jan 2018
Well, the fitter your body becomes, the fitter your brain becomes and the better it becomes at beating stress. Yes, but how?
Okay, it’s analogy time. Let’s say your body is a hill. It has an up bit, a top bit and a down bit on the other side. We will focus on the up bit; the top bit and down bit are only there for aesthetic purposes.
When we exercise for the first time, we work our body hard and it’s like running up the up bit; it’s tough; screaming muscles and gasping for breath tough. We exercise more and reach a point where it feels like the up bit has flattened out somewhat; we can run up it much easier.
So we exercise harder and the up bit steepens again. We exercise more, it flattens again.
So what’s happening? Your body is getting fitter; that’s obvious. But what else is happening? Well, it’s something quite weird and contradictory.
Drive a car up the same hill and it will use the same amount of fuel every time. Run your body up the hill and the fitter you get the less fuel you use.
And guess what; the fuel you’re using less and less of is called cortisol.
Cortisol is the fuel your brain uses to get your body in a right tizz every time you get stressed. If you’re not exercising, it releases loads of this nasty stuff into your brain and body. An unfit body can’t control cortisol release; it just lets fly like a massive cortisol injection every time you get anxious. Not good for your short term or long term health.
And guess what; as your body starts releasing less and less cortisol due to exercising, it will do the same when you get stressed. You’ve basically been reprogrammed and the more you exercise, the less cortisol will fuel your stress; which means it will have an uphill battle trying to drag you down. Find out more about the mental health benefits here.
So let’s get exercising.
If exercise is a fairly foreign concept, keep your expectations modest to start. And that means keeping any ideas of what your body can cope with in check.
When you discover something that can make a genuine difference to your well being, there’s a tendency to go at it like your life depends on it. And yes, your quality of life probably does depend on it, but it also depends on you not rupturing yourself in the first week.
So start with a walk; a short walk; then a longer walk; then a jog. Build the momentum as your body tells you it’s ready to advance, not before. And it will tell you. If you’re aching from head to toe for two days, your body is saying slow down or take a break.
As your fitness builds and your body starts to say “Bring it on,” you can go to the next rung in the exercise ladder- yoga, cardio, weights or whatever else becomes an enjoyable way to knock stress for six.
If you allow exercise to become a random stop-off, you’ll soon be flying one end to the other direct. So create an itinerary; make exercise a scheduled, not-to-be avoided part of your weekly routine. And exercise with a friend if you can; if someone else is relying on you, it’s way harder to throw a sickie.
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