It is amazing how much crisper the general experience of life becomes when your body is given a chance to develop a little strength.
— Frank Duff
It is also amazing how fantastically aggravating getting kicked out of your regular workout schedule can be. Not only does it impede your progress (you can’t gear up or earn XP when your internet connection is down), it can really mess up your whole daily routine. We try hard to get our regular workouts in, and when it’s pushed aside – for whatever reason – that can cascade and cause other things to get knocked out of whack.
Like, you know, writing blog posts. *cough*
This is an extremely indirect way of approaching the subject of, “We know it’s been a little too quiet around here lately. Sorry about that.” The underlying reasons are both good (Mike and Krys have been really involved with a local theater company production) – and not so good (I’ve been dealing with an injury that landed me at the chiropractor’s office for unscheduled maintenance). So, in any case, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa (whatever the plural of that is).
However, it does put Mr. Duff’s words into perspective. It looks like there’s some science to back him up on the subject of, “Not being able to get my exercise fix is making me cranky.”
Exercise, it turns out, is an excellent way of fighting depression. According to Jasper Smits, Director of SMU’s Anxiety and Depression Research & Treatment Program, “After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy — and you’ll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood is no longer a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise.” The scientific underpinnings for this double-whammy of goodness (improved mood, and improved health from the exercise) are generally neurochemically nifty – exercise causes your brain to release endorphins and dopamine.
Why is this awesome?
Dopamine is associated with the pleasure system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement (and motivation) to perform certain activities – like exercise! Dopamine is released by rewarding experiences such as food, sex, exercise (and, unfortunately, the use of certain drugs, especially cocaine and amphetamines), which creates a positive feedback loop. “Hey, I feel good when I do ______. I want to do it more!”
The Anxiety Disorders Association of America echoes the same advice we try to give everyone here:
If you have an exercise program already, keep up the good work. If not, here are tips to get you started:
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.