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How Does Fitness Help with Mental Health?

posted Dec 12, 2020

by Mohit Pabbi

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If you’re anything like me, you want to get the most out of your workout. Most people focus on the physical benefits of your workout. But there are also so many benefits for our mental health. In our busy world, anything that is able to help both our mental and physical health is a win-win. 

 

Fitness Decreases Stress

So you may be wondering, what mental health benefits does fitness bring? One of the first, and most obvious benefits, is that exercise decreases stress. Exercise effectively relaxes your body and can help with tension. If you struggle with anxiety, exercise can even help that too! It can help by putting a stop to the constant chatter in your head and focus your attention on something more constructive. By your heart race increasing during exercise, there is research that this can actually heal the damage caused by stress in your brain. Even if you are not incredibly stressed, fitness can help you feel more calm and peaceful. Anything that helps keep us calm in this crazy world is worth a try.

 

Fitness Improves your Mood

In addition to helping with stress and anxiety, fitness can also improve your mood. I’m sure we have all heard of the “feel-good” endorphins that exercise can bring. If you’ve ever stuck with a fitness routine for an extended period of time, you know what I mean. Fitness physically changes some of the chemicals in your brain. How crazy is that? It is shown to reduce inflammation and actually rewire parts of your brain that can lead to depression. Some doctors have even found that this can be more effective than medications typically used to treat depression. I don’t know about you, but I would be much more willing to try a natural remedy before jumping to extra medications. Some other factors that can lead to depression (or even just a down mood) are feeling lost, feeling like you don’t have a purpose, or feeling like you don’t have reasons to get through the day. Incorporating a fitness routine can help with all of these. It can also help with making friends and keeping ourselves social. 

 

Fitness Helps Us Be Social

As humans, we are social creatures. It can be easy to get stuck in our usual routines of going to work and daily tasks. But fitness can provide an opportunity to get social. This can be achieved by doing group exercise classes such as CrossFit or Zumba classes. If you prefer more individualized fitness, you can join a running club or sign up for races with friends and family. Incorporating socialization in your routine is another way to beat depression. By connecting with other people, we are able to relate to the world as a whole which can combat feelings of loneliness. Loneliness can be one of the biggest factors that can lead to depression. 

 

Fitness Helps Our Sleep

We all know how much sleep can affect our day. One bad night’s sleep can drastically change our mood towards a variety of daily stressors. Fitness can help regulate your sleep by making sure that you are tired and the appropriate times to create a healthy sleep structure. If you exercise outside, the sunlight can also contribute to making sure you are on the most effective sleep-wake cycle. It is recommended, for this purpose, to exercise in the morning or afternoon if possible. If you are unable to do this, you might want to try a calming exercise, such as yoga, in the evenings. 

 

Fitness Provides a Routine

This may be an obvious point, but fitness helps provide structure and routine to your day. Getting into a routine and actually sticking to it helps to prevent you from skipping a workout. We all know it’s hard to rely on motivation on its own because we are naturally going to try to avoid activities that require a bunch of energy. By having a routine you always follow, you can make sure that you are always getting the mental and physical benefits of fitness. It can also give your day a purpose if you are struggling with getting stuck between the mundane daily activities in our lives. Scheduling exercise into your day can be tricky, depending on your other obligations. But it is always possible. Even incorporating short amounts of exercise can help you reap the benefits we have mentioned here today. 

 

Fitness Helps How We See Ourselves

It is sometimes common for people to start a fitness routine to try to change the way they look. It’s important to not rely on this completely though. Our self worth and confidence is found so much deeper than the surface. Through exercise, you improve your self-esteem and confidence. This can be by you feeling physically stronger or by completing fitness goals. If you sign up for a race and train for that race for months, you will feel a sense of accomplishment once you complete it. You will start to believe in yourself a little more. And hopefully, realize how great you have been all along.

 

In addition to all the previously mentioned benefits, fitness can also help you develop sharper memory and more energy. With all of these great benefits, anyone could be convinced to give it a try. Movement of any kind should feel good. It’s important to find a type of fitness that you actually enjoy doing. Life is too short to force yourself to do something you hate. Keep this in mind when you are developing a new fitness routine. Even if you don’t struggle with more serious mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, improving your mental health is always a positive thing. All of the benefits are interconnected and work with each other to bring you a better quality of life. We can all manage stress a little better and feel a little more calm or happy. Fitness greatly helps with my mental health and I guarantee it will help yours too. So try giving your brain and your body a boost, I promise they will thank you for it.

 

References:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

https://www.waldenu.edu/online-bachelors-programs/bs-in-psychology/resource/five-mental-benefits-of-exercise

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/the-impact-of-exercise-on-your-mental-health/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

Why the art of good breathing may be a little more complicated than we think

posted Oct 31, 2020

by Mohit Pabbi

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The mechanical process of breathing

Wikipedia defines breathing as a simple exchange of gases. The lungs allow air in and out and it is a mechanical process necessary to allow our biological functions to operate. Oxygen in and Carbon Dioxide out - it is that simple? No!

 

At a very basic level, good breathing means that the mechanical process is as efficient as it can be. If we use the diaphragm properly when we breathe, our stomach will distend when we inhale. This makes sure that the lower lobes of the lungs get involved in the process which improves the efficiency of the gas transfer. The lower lobes also have extra receptors involved in our reactions to stress. At The Sweat Coach we aware of the importance of good breathing. Aerobic exercise makes our bodies inhale and exhale more than when we are at rest and this will allow more carbon dioxide out and more fresh oxygen in. A good workout increases the gas exchange and makes us feel better, more relaxed, and happy as a result.

 

Diaphragm breathing

Using the diaphragm ('belly breathing') reduces stress levels. It also regulates a host of body functions and lowers blood pressure. Learning to breathe this way can help you deal with anxiety and depression. It can also deal with a range of problems from irritable bowel syndrome to insomnia.

 

Menshealth.com tells a story of a powerlifter who went from 8 repetitions to 23 at the same weight once he had been coached in diaphragm breathing. He also found new energy outside the gym.

 

Scientists have even studied the best position to recover from intense exercise. It appears that our school coaches were wrong to tell us to stand tall and to show the opposition that we were not tired. In fact, crouching down helps the diaphragm expel carbon dioxide faster and allows the heart to slow down faster. In a workout, faster recovery means that you can go again with more intensity when the next set of repetitions start.

 

Breathing and meditation

It is at this point that breathing starts to become more than a mechanical process. Taking a breath differs from many auto-regulated functions in that we can control it ourselves as well. We can forget about it for long periods of time and our breath comes in and out without any thought or effort. However, if we start to think about the breath as part of meditation, for example, we can control it for our own ends. For thousands of years, man has been finding ways to improve breathing techniques. Searching for improved health and a better response to the external environment. They even teach breathing techniques to special forces personnel to help them deal with stress.

 

By 'coming back to the breath' in meditation, we can slow things down, gather our thoughts and get control of our emotions. Pranayama is the control of breath (to the point of cessation of breath) between, and after, yoga positions (asanas).

 

The Vagus, or Vagal, nerve

The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It connects the brain to the digestive system and has an impact on all sorts of medical conditions as well as physical and mental wellbeing. Research suggests that the health of the vagus nerve can be improved by slow, long breaths. This is particularly true if the exhale is longer than the inhale and if the diaphragm is fully involved in the breath.


A healthy vagus nerve means reduced stroke risk and better sugar regulation. It will reduce blood pressure, improve digestion and heart-health as well. The 4-7-8 breath is good for vagal tone (the strength of your vagal response). Breathe in through the nose for four seconds, hold for seven seconds and then exhale slowly through the mouth for eight seconds. Repeat as often as you like but try for at least four repetitions at each sitting. This is not a simple meditation exercise. The vagal tone or strength is measured by the difference in your heart beat when breathing in compared to the rate when breathing out. The 4-7-8 breath helps to strengthen the vagus nerve's ability to help the various organs that it communicates with to deal with stress. 

 

Alternative breathing practices

There are lots of exercises to improve your breathing or use your breathing to get to sleep more quickly or control stress better. Some of these are very ancient like Nadi Shodhan. This is thousands of years old and involves alternately breathing in through one nostril and out through the other. Repeated many times daily, this method reduces blood pressure and lowers heart rate.

 

Some practitioners swear by the box breath system - inhale for four seconds, hold for four. Then exhale for four seconds and then hold for four. Repeat four times whenever you can.

 

Conclusion - good breathing needs practice

At so many levels, an understanding of the importance of good breathing is vital to good health - physical and mental. If fitness and health is important to you then you need to find time to work on your breathing skills too. Think about a programme of exercises to improve your overall health and energy through breathing. Add in practice to ensure that you are using your diaphragm and make sure that you recover from a workout in the right position for maximum efficiency.

 

Wherever you are in Surrey - The Sweat Coach fitness team will be waiting to help you achieve your fitness goals at the best gyms. Guildford, Woking, Farnham, Haslemere, Dorking, Epsom and Ewell or Reigate and Redhill all offer a range of services including one to one fitness classes, personal trainers, online personal training courses, weight loss classes and many more. If you are looking to book fitness classes in Surrey, look no further than The Sweat Coach. 

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