So what is there to do other than hibernate and pray for an early spring? The answer, of course, is GET SWEATY. Those who fit exercise into their daily routine, from marathoners to mall walkers, experience decreased stress levels and anxiety, increased cognitive function and self-esteem, as well as a better night’s sleep and increased focus leading to more productivity throughout the day.
Most people are familiar with the effect endorphins, or “happy chemicals” have on our bodies. It’s the “runner’s high” you feel right after a good run or that “on top of the world” feeling that you experience when all of the pieces have fallen into place during your workout. But how can exercise affect the rest of your day? Exercise can increase the body‘s production of hormones, norepinephrine in particular, that help you deal with stress. In fact those who work up a daily sweat report lower levels of stress- related symptoms. While the stressors themselves (i.e. work, relationships, finances, hectic schedules, etc.) still exist, norepinephrine helps our body moderate our response to this stress.
By keeping your response to stress in check, you are doing your mind AND body a BIG favor. Unhealthy responses to stress can lead to upset stomach, chronic headaches, insomnia, lack of motivation or focus, over or under-eating, obesity, muscle tension, chest pain, becoming withdrawn from your social circle, and chronic fatigue. Additionally, you are putting your immune system at risk, increasing your risk of catching those nasty winter bugs. By exercising, your body is able to maintain a sort of normalcy even in stressful situations, improving both your physical and mental health overall.
Being in the fitness industry AND an avid runner, I often see clients and friends who use exercise as a tool to reduce stress, but that’s just the beginning. One of the most amazing results of reducing stress through exercise is its effects on self-perception. By controlling how your body responds to stress, you are better able to tackle the tasks of daily life. Productivity breeds more productivity and suddenly that momentum leaves you with that “on top of the world” feeling that you get after a good pavement pounding session. So, it can be said that even in the coldest of weather, exercise of any sort can help you find that “sunny day, wind at your back, perfect stride, ear buds blaring your power tunes” sensation. Can it get any better than that? Actually, yes! As many of us Movin’ Shoes groupies have found, those who exercise find themselves grandfathered into a community of “happy people.” As many of us can attest to, you would be hard pressed to find a tribe of runners who aren’t smiling, even in the most frigid temperatures. So as the winter months wind down and spring approaches, be sure to keep on keeping on. Summer bodies may be created in the winter, but healthyminds are created all year round. Exercise isn’t about a six pack or a PR, it’s about putting the body in motion as it was created to be. Nike says it best, “JUST DO IT”….you’ll never regret a workout!