Let’s draw a line in the sand over stress
This won’t be easy today’s world is full of constant time pressures and worries. We are continually rushing around, meeting deadlines, feeling guilty about not spending enough time with the family, and burning the candle at both ends just to get things done.
Now we’ve known for some time now the benefits of exercise on making us feel better and more productive and in fact I wrote about the neuroscience of it all in a blog back in 2011. However, with summer approaching, and the with the days getting longer, now is the perfect time to take a stand against stress!
Exercise makes us 20% more productive
This isn’t new information, but to put it in a more quantifiable way:-
Twenty minutes of exercise in the morning will pay you back by adding an extra 80 minutes of productivity to your day. That’s a net gain of 60 minutes to your day!
It also makes us less stressed!
A recent study compared 20 minutes of exercise a day to the equivalent time spent performing mindfulness meditation and heart rate biofeedback (a way of controlling your heart rate through breathing and seeing its effect on your heart). Researchers expected mindfulness to be superior, especially in relation to maintaining attention, improving compassion and decreasing worry. They were wrong!
Exercise was just as effective as mindfulness
This surprised the authors of the study, as mindfulness directly focuses on attention, compassion and control over your thinking. Perhaps exercise has an indirect effect on these attributes as increasing your heart rate and breathing rate may challenge your body to become more aware of the “now”.
And we also know exercise is good for more than just stress and productivity
You only need to read the rest of our blogs to know that exercise benefits us in many different ways.
While reduction in blood pressure has also been shown in mindfulness studies, I doubt that they would be able to compete with the metabolic benefits of exercise. If you’re in need of reducing your blood sugars levels, or you want to drop a few centimetres around your waistline 20 minutes of high intensity exercise would suit you better.
At iNform we believe that any exercise as part of a personalised program should be done in a mindful way so that you’re not just “going through the motions.”
If you’re “wired” to move and can’t keep still, or life doesn’t enable you to find the adequate “quiet time” at home, exercise might also be a more palatable way of gaining all these benefits.
So let’s stress less and do more!
No matter whether you prefer to spend 20 minutes a day exercising or in mindful meditation we can all experience these benefits. Now is as good a time to draw a line in the sand and establish this daily habit. Your body, health and relationships will thank you for it!
I am sure that you will agree that in today’s modern society, we are all constantly physically and mentally stretched to our limits. Stress, anxiety, multi-tasking and non-stop days where we feel like we are on auto-pilot are the norm for most. Take one of my closest friends for example. She is a 29 year old mother of two beautiful but tiring toddlers and a Staffy who seriously needs to be walked daily otherwise destruction will ensue. Add to that, she works part time in a hospital, works full time as a domestic goddess, plays hockey at state league level and is a committed friend and family member. I constantly wonder how she can complete all of her day to day tasks without losing sense of herself (and her hair).
When I asked her how she does it, she explained that when she is at hockey, she is able to be in the moment. She focuses on only what is happening there and then. She doesn’t think about what’s for dinner, or what clients she will see tomorrow. She allows herself time to think about her own body, her movements, how her running technique feels and how satisfying it feels to hit a little white ball awfully hard. What she didn’t realise is that this is the definition of being mindful. Whilst it’s a buzzword at the moment, the mental training technique is both simple and powerful.
Being mindful is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensation.
Sounds interesting I know, but this practice takes one away from autopilot. Research has showed that it is effective in reducing stress and undermining destructive emotive and cognitive processes which can lead to anxiety and depression. But what I find amazing is that research has actually shown positive physical changes. Mindfulness practice can lead to a decrease grey matter in the Amygdala (the brain’s centre associated with fear and stress). This in turn leads to thickening in the pre-frontal cortex. What results in an improved higher order functions within the brain such as concentration, decision making and overall awareness – pretty powerful stuff.
One of things I love focusing on in training sessions with clients is the neural connections created with attentive movement. For example, trying to feel glutes contract when completing a single leg deadlift. This allows a better quality of movement, decreased compensations and overall better muscle recruitment. The upside of this for me is, to achieve this, you must be solely focused on the present. You cannot practice quality movement without attention, and accepting the sensation created with movement. And ladies and gentlemen, this is the definition of mindfulness!
We have all heard about that uncle that didn’t smoke or drink, and went to bed early, and died of a heart attack while going for his morning run, right??!! Why would we even bother?!!
Well, there’s some truth to that fear, as your risk of injury and other negative health events certainly increases somewhat WHILE you are exercising. Think about it, your car is much more likely to rattle, overheat, or have a tire blow out while driving at high speeds, than while it’s parked in your garage, right?! A wise colleague of mine once said at a presentation on the matter:
I have never seen anyone get injured while standing at the front of a shop while window-shopping!
and I have to agree, neither have I. And the more extreme the exercise, the greater the chance of a negative outcome. Take Mountaineering for example, which is 50-100 x more risky than your regular structured exercise, with a 1 in 400 chance of dying in any given year!!
BUT, here is the catch: Doing nothing is 20x more risky than moutaineering!!
It is very clear that being sedentary and sitting for prolonged periods of time is extremely dangerous for us. So much so, that when compared to the rightly criticised smoking, which takes 11mins off your life expectancy per cigarette that you smoke; one hour of sitting watching TV takes 22 mins off your life!
Sitting for 10 hours a day is equivalent to being like an average smoker (20 a day). Both of which lose 1.5 years for every 10 years of the habit.
So how do we reverse this increasing level of risk? The clear answer is to obviously move more! Make sure that you aren’t sitting for an hour without having gotten up. In addition good health (FESS) behaviours reduce the risk of premature death by 65-84%
One other thing to watch is stress. Those that report being “Much more stressed than usual” are at a similar level of risk as those that smoke 20 cigarettes a day!! So, how can you combat this? We know that hobby activities reduce risk by 27%; that relaxation exercises reduce risk by 23%; and that simply ‘enjoying’ life reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 38% in men and 11% in women
Ok, time for me to get up and do a few squats!
Ok, I’m not going to berate you. I think its pretty normal that by now, the end of January, you have probably not continued with your New Years Resolution. After all, we know that 88% of people are in the same boat!
But why does this keep happening year after year?
There are some common mistakes that we see made time after time, so here are a few tips on how to fix them: (more…)
Running is not for everyone!
I was recently on a running track alongside a busy highway when I received a spray of abuse from a passenger in a car. It’s not the first time it has happened – actually it’s surprisingly common. Obviously it didn’t hurt me, and I suppose it comes out of the joy within an action that bears no consequence. Whatever. I don’t really get it…but it leaves me thinking every time. In a twisted way it motivates me. I start to think about how I would respond if the abuser actually had the gaul to do it NOT from a car driving 80kph in the opposite direction to me!
So, with tongue slightly in cheek – and without wanting to be labelled an internet tough guy – I leave my response to destiny in the hands of cyberspace.
Here’s why you’re better off undertaking some physical activity than riding shotgun in a passenger vehicle: