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The Joys of Exercise

healthy-nutrients-and-exercise

 

The unexpected disruption of Covid19 to our lives means this is an important time to stay calm and positive in the face of much stress. Whether you have existing health issues, or family members who are struggling, or fear that you have symptoms of the virus, or even if you’re just feeling overwhelmed by it all. This blog is for you! In this blog, I want to look at the massive benefits of physical exercise and how they can help you right now during the strict measures of social isolation and working from home.

Exercise is high on the list of things I am doing to stay calm and positive and to keep feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious at bay. But I also take time to look after my spiritual, emotional and mental health as well as my physical health:

Connect: First, connect with God in prayer.  Second, connect with people too. We are so fortunate to have technology that makes this so easy right now!

Be active: Keep up your healthy habits of exercise and physical activity.

Be thankful: Remember to count your blessings. Take notice of the things that bring you joy every day and give God thanks.

Kindness: Think of how to help someone else and carry out random acts of kindness for friends or strangers.

 

Benefits of exercise

There are profound benefits of exercise to mental health and research shows exercise increases the brain’s growth hormone and mitochondria, enhances your immune system, reduces depression and makes you feel better.[i]

Studies show regular exercise relieves stress, increases quality sleep, improves memory, increases circulation and levels of oxygen in the body, as well as boosting your mood. In my January blog, I discussed the amazing work of the Vagus Nerve in keeping our body functioning at its optimal. One of the easiest ways of stimulating the Vagus Nerve is also one of the easiest ways of improving our mental and cognitive health…and that is exercise! Unfortunately, exercise can be one of the first things to slip when we are facing a lot of stress or when our daily habits are disrupted.

A study in Frontiers in Immunology highlights how exercise can help the immune system find and deal with pathogens.[ii] In the long term, regular exercise slows down changes that happen to the immune system with ageing, therefore reducing the risk of infections. Analysis from the University of Bath reminds us that exercise has an especially important role during times of social isolation by helping to maintain a healthy immune system and have a tremendously positive effect on our health and wellbeing.3

I think you will also find, as I do, that when you increase your exercise, you will sleep better, your range of movement will improve, and your body will start to crave the nutritious food that will it needs to repair!

 

What exercise should I do?

When it comes to physical exercise, I think of three key things: mobility, strength and cardio. They are the three prongs of a balanced exercise program.

  1. Mobility is important because muscle fibres tent to become short, stiffer and weaker when we don’t use them and as we age, making us vulnerable to injuries, back pain, and stress. Try to take regular breaks from sitting at your desk or on your sofa! Include exercise that stretch the elastic fibers surrounding your muscles and tendons to counteract this process by increasing your flexibility.
  2. Strength training is important because strong muscles means better mobility and balance, as well as greater bone density. A UK-based study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2017 found strength exercises that utilise your own bodyweight are as important for overall health as aerobic exercise. [iii] This includes exercises you can do at home like press-ups, sit-ups and planks.
  3. Cardiovascular. Functional Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. While at home, you can use the stairs – try 3 fast 20-second stair climbs a day to keep your heart rate up! Also, put some loud workshop or dance music and dance like no one is watching!

A note of caution: over-exercising can be detrimental to our bodies too, as it can disrupt our hormone balance (adrenal, stress and sex hormones) which can affect sleep and increase gut permeability (leaky gut), potentially leading to food sensitivities and increased inflammation. So, don’t overdo it! Talk to me about this in your consultations if you are concerned about this.

My exercise goals this year are to increase my strength and flexibility, so I am doing more Pilates exercises at home (and can’t wait to get back into my normal classes!). Look out for a guest blog from Sandy, a Pilates instructor, coming soon!

I also walk as much as I can, aiming for around 60 minutes 4 days a week. In my opinion, the most important forms of exercise are the ones you can do, so I make sure you pick something I enjoy doing so I will be able to stick to my goals.

 

Exercise and nutrition

Nutrition is a vital but often overlooked element of exercise because our physical activity increases our nutritional requirements.

Before exercise: Remember it is not a good idea to exercise on a full stomach! A piece of fruit like a banana, kiwi fruit or an orange, together with a handful of nuts 30 minutes prior to your workout will often suffice. Drinking 500ml of water around 30 minutes before a workout will ensure you are well hydrated and help with your recovery after your workout! If you want to increase your performance, with less fatigue and faster recovery, try drinking organic real coffee or organic matcha.

After exercise: Remember to increase your intake of liquids such as water or healthy shakes, and nutritious meals with plenty of protein to help your body recover. Liquids such as protein shakes and smoothies are a quick way of getting protein and carbs into your body after a workout. If you do more than one hour intensive exercise, afterwards you should consider a protein shake or smoothie. Ideally, you should have a nutritious, protein-rich meal within 1 hour or 1.5 hours of your workout. This will kick-start the recovery process as carbohydrates restore glycogen and improves protein absorption and protein is essential in repairing damaged muscle.

I hope this helps inspire your home workouts and that you see how much different a little exercise each day can make to your wellbeing at this time!

 

With every blessing,

Emma

 

Emma Maitland-Carew – Registered Nutritional Therapist

Dip.ION, mBANT, CHNC Registered Practitioner,

Metabolic Balance® Coach, HeartMath Coach.

 

[i] You might like to listen to this podcast by Dr Hazel Wallce, The Food Medic, who talks to Brendon Stubbs, a research physiotherapist specialising in physical activity and mental health. ‘Exercise is medicine: Mental health + physical activity’ https://thefoodmedic.co.uk/the-podcast/season-1/

[ii] John P. Campbell, James E. Turner. ‘Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan’. Frontiers in Immunology, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648

[iii] Emmanuel Stamatakis, I -Min Lee, Jason Bennie, Jonathan Freeston, Mark Hamer, Gary O’Donovan, Ding Ding, Adrian Bauman, Yorgi Mavros, ‘Does Strength-Promoting Exercise Confer Unique Health Benefits? A Pooled Analysis of Data on 11 Population Cohorts With All-Cause, Cancer, and Cardiovascular Mortality Endpoints’, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 187, Issue 5, May 2018, Pages 1102–1112, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwx345

 

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