I've been a runner for the past 25 years -sure, I've had my ups and downs, starts and stops (through injuries, babies and career) -but, it's always been something that I come back to. However, as I get older, going fast and winning races has not been the goal. Instead, running has become a meditation and relaxation of sorts that serves to clear my mind, motivate me and give me self-confidence.
As my kids are now getting old enough to be part of sports teams which practice for an hour or two, I've been using their practice times to take my run. I've become known as "the mom who runs", and now have other moms joining me. On a first run together with another baseball mom whose form was a little "tense", I shared with her how to relax her muscles while running and "enjoy" the rhythm and meditation of her stride. To someone new to running, this was not something she had thought of before. After practicing this method, she was amazed at how much better she felt during and after her run.
I would say many of us tend to focus on the physical benefits of exercise much more than the mental benefits. But, not only are the mental benefits real, they are scientifically proven. A recent article from Harvard Medical School explains that "exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the 'runner’s high' and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts." Working out with a friend also helps to help your mind escape from things you may be worried about, which can also help you to relax.
So, maybe running is not your thing. There are many different ways you can incorporate more exercise into your lifestyle for both physical and mental benefits. Check out Powerhouse Hit the Deck, a simple and effective way to challenge your major muscle groups and get a great cardiovascular workout, even when time is limited! Developed by Zaega's Expert Exercise Physiologist, Jenny Evans, CPT, CFT, BS, Performance Coach and Founder of PowerHouse Performance Coaching.
And, keep in mind, exercise is important, but it isn't the only way to reduce stress and relax. Look to the related articles below written by Zaega experts for more great tips!