FEELING DOWN, STRESSED, OR STUCK?
The right exercises can greatly benefit your mental and emotional state. Lean in to what you’re feeling – and discover the benefits of giving your mind and body the workout it needs!
We all know that exercise is great. Exercising boosts our moods, makes us feel more energised, and helps us to live longer and healthier. However, if you have a particularly challenging area that you want to tackle, certain exercises may get faster results than others.
Here’s how you can choose your workouts more strategically:
IF YOU’RE STUCK TRYING TO SOLVE A PROBLEM:
Why not try heading outdoors for some fresh air and a long jog to clear your head? When we exercise, the neurons in our brain fires up from seven to 10 percent faster, while blood flow rises by 20 percent – enabling us to think more clearly.
“However, to truly tap into our creative side, the movement must be rhythmic,” says psychologist and author of The Joy of Running, Dr Thaddeus Kostrubala. This is akin repeated mantra chanting meditation to open the mind, he says, “I think the same process occurs from the repetitive rhythm of slow, long-distance running.”
IF YOU’RE FIGHTING FOOD CRAVINGS:
You’ll want to get down to a HIIT workout in this case and engage in high intensity interval training. Research shows that the more intense a workout is, the greater its impact on reducing appetite.
Dr Kym Guelfi from the University of Western Australia conducted a trial in which participants worked out at intensive levels for 15 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of recovery, and repeated for a total of 30 minutes. “We think it’s related to a reduction in the hunger hormone ghrelin, which occurs when blood is diverted away from the gastrointestinal tract during intense exercise,” Dr Guelfi explains. Ghrelin is termed the “hunger hormone” because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake, and promotes fat storage.
In another study published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, researchers also found that exercise may strengthen your brain’s ability to resist high-calorie foods such as chocolate bars or potato crisps in favour of more healthy options. This is due to the relationship between exercise and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and inhibitory control). Subjects who demonstrated reduced activity levels in the prefrontal cortex were more likely to over-indulge in highly processed, calorie-dense foods.
IF YOU HAVE A FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING:
Dancing is a whole body workout that is good for your heart, makes you stronger, and also helps with balance and coordination. But that’s not all – dancing also has psychological benefits for those who suffer from social anxiety. For years, some therapists have been prescribing dance therapy for people with a fear of public speaking.
Research published in the SAGE Journals supports the theory that dancing curbs anxiety. The idea is that if you can loosen up enough to boogie in front of strangers, you’ll be a lot less likely to feel as self-conscious speaking before an audience.
IF YOU’RE FEELING STRESSED OUT:
According to a Speedo survey conducted by international market research company MORI, 74 percent of swimmers polled agreed that getting in the pool helps to reduce stress and tension. Says Sports Psychologist, Julie Johnston, “The feeling of ‘freedom’ whilst in the water has long been one of the key appeals behind all forms of swimming, and the results of this survey offer a clear indication that swimming not only provides an effective physical workout, but can also actively improve mentality and self-perception, making it the ideal exercise for body and mind.”
While swimming, we enter a state which enables our brain and senses to have a break as there isn’t a ton of new sensorial information to process. But if you find your mind wandering while you swim, try focusing on the sensation of your body in the water, the touches of air on your skin when you surface to breathe, and the muscles you’re engaging. Or, simply focus on your breath.
IF YOU HAVE INSOMNIA:
Practice yoga or Pilates. A study by researchers from Brazil’s University of Sao Paolo, found that people who did Pilates twice a week for 12 weeks, reported better sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, yoga also helps people with insomnia. When people with insomnia practice yoga daily, they tend to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and return to sleep more quickly in the event that they wake up in the middle of the night.
“Both Yoga and Pilates are exercises that activate our parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for rest, repair, and relaxation,” says Zoya Holland, a yoga and Pilates instructor who teaches at The Yoga School. “During practice, we switch focus away from our sympathetic nervous system, which activates what is often termed as the fight or flight response.” In the day, our sympathetic nervous system is hard at work handling daily stressors such as to-do lists, traffic, work challenges, and more. So by switching away from it, we feel calmer, and sleep comes more easily.”
If you’re looking for an inclusive and nurturing environment, The Yoga School offers a range of specialty yoga and Pilates classes to cater to all levels. Check out the class schedules here.