Ever notice how some workouts leave you feeling just so – so? And others make you feel that you can do anything? Cope with the demanding boss or never ending To Do List, cranky family, stack of bills? New research is pointing to the feel good factor and what it takes to get there from exercise. Working Out is Great For Your Brain
And, it’s just what you’d guess. Working out for at least 20 minutes at a moderate to high intensity is what our brains and bodies crave for the feel good neuro chemicals that put a smile on your face.
I notice this at the Y. I’m usually a little tense, walking in, wondering if there’s an open elliptical machine and if I can hop right on. If all the planets align and I can start my workout quickly with all the necessary distractions, music and a page turner, then by about 20 minutes, I’m in the groove, I don’t want to leave and suddenly, the daily stress starts to melt away.
It’s Good Therapy
Like many people, getting out of my head and pushing the body forces a different perspective. I hear this from patients all the time, when I ask how they’re coping with overwhelming stress. One of my patients has a son with schizophrenia, who has been in and out of jail and hospitals. She said that if she didn’t have her exercise classes and yoga, that she’d be on medication. Another who has lost 2 family members within 6 months to cancer also works out to save her sanity.
I’m working with a number of people right now who are highly, highly resistant to any kind of exercise. For these folks walking around the block is an overwhelming request. Yes, there are really lots of folks out there who avoid any thoughts of walking or moving. For them, the idea of going to gym causes panic attacks.
What I’ve been doing is asking them to start off just by wearing 1 pound ankle weights at home, to help build up a little muscle in their legs. I’ve asked them to start with 10 minutes of walking and to note how they feel before, during and after and to check in with themselves to see if the experience was as bad as they anticipated or what they expected. Then once they start to feel more comfortable with the idea, we move up to the magical 20 minutes and then it all changes. I’ve seen people so resistant to exercise who were 100-150 pounds overweight, start a regular walking program and actually look forward to it. I’ve had patients start with walking and progress to going to the gym and doing an hour of cardio. It can happen. For some people, jumping in and not looking back works, for others, it’s baby steps.
For people who have any health condition like high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain or any others, check with your health care provider about exercise guidelines. If you’re carrying a lot of extra weight, it’s especially important to start slowly and get professional advice about the safest way to exercise. But no matter what your situation, even if you can only move your arms or your hands, our bodies and our brains love movement.