Monday 7 November 2011

Beat the Winter Blues with Exercise!

Winter approaches, fast! Memories of summer feel distant and seem lost in the ever colder weather, leaves swept by the wind and the closing darkness that shortens our sunlight hours. It's easy to feel down, lost, uninspired and, well to sum it all up...Motivation Zero!!!

There is hope to see us through the looming darkness, and the good news is; we all have the ability to harness this power and happiness. You have heard it before I'm sure, but this isn't going to scare me off from telling you again and in the process, add a few more particulars to the mix.....Exercise can help beat the Winter Blues!!!

The UK, and other developed countries such as the USA, demonstrate scary statistics in two main area's relating to health and happiness: mental health and lack of exercise

Mental health issues are on the rise, and I mean the rise!!! Doctors are seeing and treating more and more patients every month with conditions such as anxiety, depression, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and stress induced sickness. Sadly, rates of suicide in the UK continue to rise with more people finding it hard to cope with, yes you guessed it...STRESS.

Every individual struggling with one of these conditions, among others, each has their own personal story to tell. I have my own story, and I'm sure you, or someone you know will have theirs too. I believe from the bottom of my heart that stress in any of its many forms, is the root of many mental health issues presenting themselves in today's culture and world. We are bombarded with mental stimulations from waking to sleeping. Our brain simply cannot switch off. The TV, news, magazines, mobile phones, radio, internet, facebook, twitter, email, advertising, brochures. The list is endless. You must be, look, act like this or that, you should own this or that, look this way or that, have a body like this, wear these clothes...ahhh! Overload. What ever happened to sitting with mates or spending quality time with the family? Couple this with being constantly on the go, moving place to place, sipping lattes and espresso to keep your tired body and mind on the constant go, then resulting to smoking, drinking and TV to help unwind and it's not surprising what happens to us eventually when our bodies scream at us to STOP ALL THIS. Prolonged mental, emotional and physical stress can lead to a life fueled by adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. Too much of these hormones for too long and you have yourself a recipe for disaster, or to be more specific, a possible nervous breakdown.

The second alarming factor in addressing our health and happiness is the serious lack of activity or exercise we seem to do as a nation, and the alarming numbers of overweight and obese people in our society. Put simply, as a nation we are just not moving enough on a day to day basis.

"A lack of movement results in a positive calorie balance; more calories ingested from food than spent on regulating our bodies and minds, or used on daily activity. Inevitably, weight gain follows." CavemanClarke (2011)

A new, learnt, lack of self confidence and dislike for our overweight body shape adds to the lack of exercise. A downward spiral ultimately resulting in a very unhealthy body, mind and lifestyle. Then, add to this unhealthy mix that many of our daily activities are limited by technology. Wash and dry clothes in one machine, dish wash the dirty plates, watch TV, play computer games instead of sport or walking, cycling, running, etc, turn on the heating at the touch of a button, travel to and from local places in a car...the list goes on and on.
We simply do not move or play enough any more!!!

The Hope that simple movement, activity and exercise brings
I believe there is a possible link between the two. Too much stress and not enough daily activity leads us to a place of fatigue and unhappiness. Hope is not lost though, not by a long shot. Remember being a child? Running everywhere laughing, begging to be let outside to play? Just look around you at kids having an awesome time with seemingly endless energy reserves, huge smiles plastered across their playful faces. The answer to a cheery smile, a healthy and strong body, a sound and confident mind could be just round the corner, if only you will just get outside and move a little?!

Yes that's right. Get outside and move, it's that simple. I'm not saying join the gym, cycle for hours on the stationary bike or do endless sit ups in front of overly loud music channels blaring in your face in a sweaty, air conditioned prison. Pick something you enjoy. Walking? Running or cycling? Swimming, kayaking? Bird watching, walking the dog, riding horses, orienteering? It doesn't matter what activity it is, what works for one person may not work as well for another. The important thing is to get moving and get some fresh air at the same time. Even doctors often prescribe aerobic exercise as a first resort for battling mild depression and anxiety before trying other methods such as medication or talking therapy.

Being out in nature alone has its own healing feeling. Stimulating senses, filling your lungs with deep breaths of fresh air, feeling your heart pounding and your body working hard, getting stronger and fitter. The endorphin's rush through your body waking and exciting you to feelings of being truly alive and well and happy.

Still not so sure? Try it for yourself. What have you got to lose? Stick with it a short while and you will feel happier and healthier.

Be happy, get outside and play like a child

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