Across the world, it has been a stressful time, and no doubt you have felt overwhelmed for a moment or two. Amid uncertain times, the best path forward is to recognize what you can and cannot control, and focus on managing what is in your power to change. Additionally, exercise is one of the best therapies for anxiety, lowering stress hormones and releasing feel-good endorphins. Experts agree 1-2 hours of exercise--away from your computer and social media feeds--can do wonders for your mood. Here’s how.
Exercise gives you a mental breakCollectively, we are juggling a lot these days, all within a background of constant uncertainty. Thinking about the unknowns can add unnecessary stress, but a hard workout can provide a positive distraction from life’s demands. In fact, exercise can be thought of as a type of meditation in motion, offering temporary relief from the endless playback loop in our heads. Put another way, when trying to balance a new yoga pose or eek out a tough interval session on the trainer, there is only so much room for worrying about your to-do list.
Exercise releases feel-good endorphinsWhen we exercise, our brains release chemicals--some of them hormones, some of them neurotransmitters--that help boost our mood. Serotonin helps us relax, dopamine provides a rush of excitement, while testosterone helps bolster self-confidence. These feel-good endorphins are why it is almost impossible to finish a workout in a worse mood than when you started.
Exercise can help reduce feelings of self-doubtEndorphins can also have a powerful effect on negative self-image. According to the American Psychological Association, dozens of studies have examined the link between regular exercise and lower levels of depression and anxiety. These studies found exercise not only helped ward off panic attacks, but also increased mental resilience and counteracted depression. And a 2007 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine concluded exercise was “generally comparable” to antidepressants as a treatment for patients with major depressive disorder.
Exercise can be empoweringIt can be disorienting when things seem to change day to day. With routines disrupted and the future uncertain, exercise can provide a rare opportunity to take control of your situation. The only one standing between you and a good workout is you. Taking ownership of what is in your power to change will help develop a much-needed sense of empowerment.
If you are exercising in the heat, be sure to prepareWith most of the world experiencing summer, it is important that you take precautions to prepare accordingly. These days, you may find yourself exercising solo or outside as a way to take a break from being at home. Both can increase the risk for heat exhaustion. Remember, it is possible to overdo it, which counteracts any stress-reduction benefits you could have otherwise obtained. Take the right steps to keep yourself safe this summer:
- Phone a friend: If you’re planning on running for more than an hour in very hot conditions, make sure someone else knows where you’ll be, especially if you plan to run in an isolated area, such as a trail.
- Take it easy: Early in the summer, your body isn’t fully adapted to running in super hot conditions, which means you’ll have a higher-than-normal stress response to the heat. It takes about 14 days for heat-acclimation changes to occur physiologically.
- Pay attention to your body: Feeling fatigued and hot are normal. Feeling dizzy, confused, nauseous, or cold (one of the most tell-tale signs of overheating) are not. If you’re suffering from the latter, slow down until things return to normal.
- Don’t forget electrolytes: Hyponatremia is a dangerous condition that occurs when a person consumes too much water relative to electrolyte intake. To help ensure a balanced supply of electrolytes, we recommend light sweaters or smaller individuals consider 1 SaltStick Cap per hour (or the equivalent serving of SaltStick Fastchews or SaltStick Elixalyte). Heavy sweaters, larger individuals, or those in hotter conditions should consider 2-3 SaltStick Caps per hour.