OUR mental and physical health are more connected than you think—have you ever decided to go for a run when you were dealing with something difficult, only to return feeling much better? No, it didn't take your problems away, but it improved your mood and allowed clarity of thought.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores, many of us who didn't otherwise experience anxiety and other related disorders have found that we have been having several bouts of these attacks. The truth is that this can get pretty overwhelming, especially when everything seems to be out of your control. And while seeing a doctor could help, fitness expert and personal trainer Gisel Harrow says that incorporating some exercises in your daily routine could also naturally help to improve these anxiety symptoms.
“Regular exercise has been touted for its hand in improving mental health for decades. Some exercises have been found to be effective in helping to reduce the overall tension in the body and mind, stabilising emotions and even improving and encouraging sleep. In fact, some studies have shown that exercise does not merely help to reduce the symptoms of psychiatric illnesses, but it also helps to improve overall well-being,” Harrow explained.
But which exercises are most effective in the management of anxiety and other mental disorders? Harrow shares a few below:
Some good aerobic exercises that can help manage anxiety are swimming, riding a bike, running and brisk walking. “These exercises trigger lasting changes in our 'feel-good' neurotransmitters—serotonin and norepinephrine. They not only help us to feel good during our exercise sessions, but after as well. Some scientific research even shows where as little as five minutes of aerobic exercises can promote the release of anti-stress hormones,” Harrow explains. She said that as for recommendations on an exercise format, you execute these exercises in whatever combination that you want for 30 minutes, for about five days each week.
Yoga exercises focus on not just mindfulness, but it is largely is concentrated on breathing. Experts suggest that yoga, which is used globally in the treatment of depression and panic disorders, has been found to be quite effective to not just treat, but to promote positive mental health especially because it's difficult to be anxious when you're breathing deeply.
Yoga exercises also include stretching and core strengthening techniques that have been found to assist significantly with calming the mind.
Fun dance classes
When you move your body it decreases muscle tension, thereby reducing the chances of your body helping to trigger feelings of anxiety. Dancing encourages a lot of body movement which is fun and made better when accompanied by music. Dancing, which is described by the fitness expert as a moderate to high-intensity activity, has the ability to improve your mood, not only because of the physical exertion, but because of the personal self-expression that it allows.
At face value, many people think of strength training as just a way to gain muscles. But Harrow says that if you take a look, you'll realise that it is so much more, noting that when you include weight training in your exercise regimen you will also notice that your mood improves. This can help with regulating challenges such as problems with sleep and stress. “When you are well, overall you are less likely to be affected by anxiety, and if strength training isn't really your exercise technique of chance, then rest assured you don't need to include it more than once each week,” Harrow advised.
Additionally, Harrow advises that you should avoid foods such as fatty, greasy foods that promote inflammation, because they can undo or make more difficult your efforts to keep anxiety at bay.
Have you managed to transform your body through weight gain or weight loss? Want to share your story with us? E-mail clarkep@ jamaicaobserver. com