As a kid, the holiday season can be magical and memorable. However, according to an APA survey, 41% of Americans report an increase in stress during this most wonderful time of the year. There are a lot of different reasons and factors contributing to the stress (financial, pressure of giving or getting gifts, travel, lack of time, commercialism, etc), and to analyze those is far beyond the scope of this post.

What I DO want to chat about is how we handle that stress, whether it’s extra stress of the season or the consistent stress we carry around throughout the year. 

Our mind and body are connected, inextricably so. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the times of being clumsy when we are in a rush or can’t muster the energy to take a shower when we are feeling depressed. Our mental state has a verifiable impact on our physical body and its ability to do even simple tasks.

One powerful implication of this mind-body connection is that the opposite is ALSO true. It’s a two way street and our physical body can have an impact on our mental health. This includes reducing negative impacts from anxiety, depression, “the blahs”, ADHD, and stress while increasing positive impacts in self esteem, memory and creativity (among other things).

If you are like me, this is some exciting news! No one is saying that if you go for a run, then you’ll never feel depressed again. But if we have more tools at our disposal, we would be silly to not try to take advantage of that!

So what actually makes the difference? What should ‘count’ as exercise? Do I have to live at the gym or feel super guilty for missing a class? I’m so glad you asked! 

First point! Rhythmic and aerobic exercises, especially ones that use large muscle groups, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Those exercises are things like jogging / walking, or rowing or biking (or swimming but I’m not blessed with access to an indoor pool so working with what I’ve got). That’s one reason why we make it a point to use each piece of cardio equipment every week. Physical benefits aside (and there are many), those longer rows or biking sessions are really really positive for your mental health too.

Second, let’s talk about stress. You  may have already realized this, but exercise is actually a form of stress itself. Why is this helpful? Because it gives the body a chance to process and then release that stress. Eventually, the workout ends and the stressful situation is over. But the skills the body was able to practice will remain. And those skills will follow you out into the real world, and your next stressful situation.

This point was illustrated in one of my favorite scenes in that 2001 classic Legally Blond. A bit simplistic certainly but research has shown that physical activity increases the production of those painkilling and mood enhancing endorphins.

Third, why do the previous two points matter? Regular and routine movement has shown to have a positive impact on our resilience. What good does that do, one might ask? Websters defines resilience as ‘an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change’. I dunno about you, but I’ve experienced a grip of change in the last few years and some extra resilience tools in my toolbox would not be a bad thing.

One last point. These mental health benefits happen with moderate exercise, and WITHOUT forcing oneself to workout until collapse. Moderate exercise means you can talk (but not enough breath to sing) and the body physically gets warmer (but not a huge puddle of sweat).

So we encourage you to continue to move regularly through this holiday season. Our 60min and 30min classes give you an opportunity to find the time that works best for you. We are ready to do all the coaching and thinking for you, so you can just move. It’s really an investment in yourself. When you give yourself the best foundation you can, you’ll really have more to give for others!