Training Matters: Immunity, mental health, and resiliency: Why we need to keep moving
Hello Medicine Hat, hoping that you are well and making the best of these challenging times we live in.
The world of sport, fitness, and healthy lifestyles has certainly been turned on its ear with the new reality. Social media runs amok with jokes about how we are saving the world by sitting at home in front of the screen, how much weight gain will result, how unhealthy we get to be.
Well, I suppose that is one way to go. The path of least resistance is certainly the easiest, and sadly many have been and will continue to choose it.
However, I think we all inherently know that now more than ever is when the human machine needs physical activity. The myriad of proven benefits that appropriate movement provides could fill this column so let’s focus on just a few of the most applicable today.
Exercise improves immune function. Theories abound as to why: Improved circulation of antibodies and white blood cells? Improved flushing of bacteria from lungs and airways? Rises in body temperature during and after exercise? Decreases in stress hormone release? While researchers grapple to agree on definitive theories, the bottom line is that people who engage in regular moderate activity get sick less often. Improve your immunity by moving your tushy.
Mental health advocates have been extolling the benefits of physical activity for years. It is widely suggested that exercise is more effective than medication for treating mild depression. Proven benefits include: The release of positive mood altering brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins, decreased feelings of tension, reductions in the release of stress hormones and faster clearance thereof, improvements in amount and quality of sleep, improved self esteem, and sharper mental focus to name a few. In light of the challenges we are facing, now is the time to exercise for your mental health, not just your waistline.
The other extremely applicable benefit of physical activity is resiliency. I have written about this being a huge part of why sport, youth sport particularly, is such an integral part of life. Learning to deal positively with defeat, injury, hard training, tough coaching, bad callsâ€¦ when done right this is one of the best things about sport. Now athletes have to deal positively with not participating, the answer points to keeping their training going.
Research into resiliency following catastrophic events like earthquakes, floods, and even war heralds the benefits of physical activity. During times of high risk or ongoing stress, exercise provides much needed psychological relief, escapism, helps give people a sense of routine, and allows us to feel connected (albeit from six feet away). The research further points to outdoor activities, connecting to and moving in nature seems to have significant effect on people’s ability to roll with what life throws at us.
Here we are at a crossroads friends: we can throw in the towel or we can make choices about staying active. Yes, I know it is easier when we can just go to the gym but home exercise is where we have to be for now. There are many options: You still have VHS workout videos so you can do some sweating to the oldies? No? Well the proliferation of online training is awesome and scary all at the same time, so please listen to your body, maintain your form, choose workouts that are appropriate for you, and make it fun. Setting up a home gym doesn’t have to be expensive: tubing, Swiss ball, yoga mat, couple dumbbells, suspension trainers, or use your body weight. We are not yet confined to our homes only so enjoy the amazing trail system in the Hat just please maintain your physical distancing or soon enough it will be laps around the back yard. Speaking of which, the dog needs her walk. Take care of yourselves.
Ed Stiles BPE Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Centre’s Performance Enhancement Team and is the fitness coordinator at the Family Leisure Centre. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.