As the world continues to spiral at a rate most people are struggling with, vision is becoming shorter and shorter. Long term goals are being cast aside as the long term simply seems too far away. Economically most of us are looking what to cut first, habits of shopping most weeks are changing, dining habits are being re-thought, business spending habits are forced out and any habits of going to a specific location to relax, workout or be social are long gone.
One habit I urge you to not stop is exercising. A habit, maybe more than ever before, is a humans most precious one to keep during times of self isolation and economic turmoil.
Self care, a term that is being used a lot at the moment by government and organisations involves staying physically active, alongside eating healthy food, sleeping and resting well, maintaining structure and routine and connecting socially with family and friends (1). Not taking your physical activity serious at this point is going to impact your self care. Ignoring self care has many trickle down effects with the main worries being, anxiety, depression, poor health and risking others health.
It’s long been documented that exercise is good for our cardiovascular health and has also long been documented it can help with the prevention of mental health (2). It is even shown to be a large and significant antidepressant compared to non-active interventions for patients with depressive symptoms.
When we receive a stress the body reacts via its central nervous system, this triggers further reactions throughout the body but largely in the brain. Certain receptors in the brain become ‘inflamed’ or chronically active, if we often get stressed through various things then we can be at risk of being under chronic stress which is a large precursor to depression or anxiety. Exercise can help to generate more ‘clean up cells’ into the CNS, which will help to clean up any oxidation stress caused by the bodies inflammatory response to stress. Not only does it help generate these cells but it also helps activate them. So the body is doing amazing things to help you combat stress via exercise but it doesn’t stop there. Once the clean up process is in place it is also shown that post exercise the body begins to generate neuroprotective cells and neuroregenerative cells, ensuring the body can better protect the cells it has and makes new ones to enhance its ability to cope with the next stress that comes along (3).
Understanding exercise can help us mentally at this time is important and naturally the next question is what type of exercise? This is where it becomes difficult to answer. Like most questions on exercise and health it starts with ‘it depends’. It depends on what you usual exercise habits are.
If you are used to attending a class most mornings or meeting at a set time to exercise most days I urge you to keep this trend going. You may not be able to go to the same place or do the usual class but try to mimic the type of exercise you would usually do. @innerfight
release their workouts the night before to ensure if you are used to working out in the 5:30am class you can and you are not waiting for the workout on that day.
In the world of endurance, think how your normal week looks and try to base your future weeks on it. One overlooked part of endurance is the ‘mindfulness’ aspect to exercising solo or without distraction. Mainly this is in the form of swimming, which is really off the options board for most people at this time. If you swim 3 - 4 times per week, that is at least 3 - 4 hours of time where you were not distracted by 3rd party inputs (podcasts, music, friends chatting etc..) you had to distract yourself from within and focus purely on the bottom of a pool. This habit may have played a bigger role in your mental ‘clear up’ than you think. If so I suggest you look to replace that swim time with some upper body movement and mobility with the least distractions as possible. Enjoy the quiet time just like you would in a pool. For the long course athletes used to their weekend long rides and runs, find a way to incorporate these long sessions still. It may not be as long as you were used to but try to continue with the theme of ‘endurance workouts’. If you do endurance for social reasons, get into zwift group rides or meet ups or join run challenges and zoom rooms to chat about what you have done that day, it will all have subtle but significant effects on your mood.
The last group of people to chat about is the non exercisers, if you are someone who doesn’t class themselves as an ‘exerciser’ and instead just relies on walking or commuting to tick your 150 mins a week of exercise box then now more than ever I really urge you to create an exercise habit. It doesn’t need to be HIIT or a hard cycling home workout, stairs running or squatting your sofa it can be as simple as a yoga flow routine or some posture and core specific low heart rate work and remember, despite what it seems, you don't have to post it on social.
They say a habit takes 21 days to break, this also seems to be the new time period for self isolation. A very real problem to the COVID19 pandemic is mental health. A very real solution to mental health issues is exercise. If you are finding it difficult to exercise during this time don’t stay quiet about it. Share it with your coach, family, friends or if you need too, with me!
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