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You’ve been through the wringer and come out on the other side. But recovering from difficult times is a process. A great place to start that journey is in the gym. Physical fitness can be a powerful tool in your fight against depression and anxiety, as well as a helpful companion in your new and improved life. If you’ve recently been through recovery, Kristina Marie Fitness hopes this guide helps you incorporate fitness into your healing journey.
The Stress Response
Stress is an adaptive response to threat. Your body activates the autonomic nervous system and dispenses adrenaline and cortisol. These pump up your flight or fight response. Your heart speeds up, and your blood sugar rises to give you the energy you need to escape. Your brain slows down and less important body systems, such as digestion, shut down. Everything is ready to fight off the threat. But what if no physical threat ever manifests?
The stress response occurs not just when our lives are in danger, but when our emotions are triggered. A bad day at work or a hurtful comment can start the whole process. What evolution provides as a safety mechanism can become a harmful chronic condition. Chronic stress can cause high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, and contributes to metabolic dysfunction, obesity and diabetes. It may even play a role in the development of mental illness and Alzheimer’s disease.
How Exercise Helps
According to Harvard Medical School, adding aerobic exercise to your daily routine is a great stress reliever. It strengthens the immune and cardiovascular systems, helping the body reverse the harmful effects of stress. It can help you clear your mind and gain perspective on your problems. People who exercise regularly report feeling a greater sense of self-esteem and having a brighter outlook on life. As your body becomes stronger, you become more confident. Low-impact exercise, such as tai chi and yoga, can also offer other benefits by helping you improve your flexibility and hone your mental clarity.
Yoga is not inherently religious, but it is inherently spiritual, and compatible with many faith practices. It teaches inner peace through compassion, as meditation is part of the exercises. It helps you improve your mind-body connection because you learn to control your body’s response to stress through breathing, posture, and concentration. Meditation can keep you from falling victim to negative thoughts and getting caught in a downward spiral. Meditation can short circuit this process and help you retrain your brain. It teaches healthy thinking patterns that prevent you from sinking into depression and other mental illnesses.
Surround Yourself With Positive People
One of the potential landmines for anyone recovering from a difficult period in their life is being around people and places that tempt them to fall back into destructive behavior patterns. Getting involved in fitness by hiring a personal trainer like Kristina Marie Fitness or taking an exercise class gives you the opportunity to meet new people and form new connections.
The environment of a gym is deeply focused on aspects of health and personal improvement, which is just what you need when you’re struggling. Socializing is also important when you’re dealing with stressful life events. According to Asbury, interacting with people can lower your stress levels, decrease depression and anxiety, and improve your overall satisfaction with life.
Find Ways to Boost Motivation
Once you have your routine calibrated and you begin a fitness-focused lifestyle, it’s important to stay motivated to keep the momentum going. One of the best ways to do this is to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound), which set the stage to hold yourself accountable for meeting your goals. Other ways to boost your motivation include investing in new athletic wear or gear, splurging on new ear buds to enjoy your fitness playlist, signing up for a race, or even joining a fitness group with similar goals. As Zenbusiness.com notes, it’s hard to add exercise to your daily routine, so stick with it until it becomes a natural part of your life. And don’t be afraid to make adjustments if you’re finding it difficult to maintain.
Decades of research have clearly demonstrated the benefits of working out. Strength training and resistance training help you build stronger bones and muscles. Cardio improves cardiovascular health. And people who exercise moderately each day are healthier and happier.
Exercise encourages other healthy lifestyle changes too, such as eating a more nutritious diet. It also helps regulate your sleep cycle, which boosts your mood and cognitive function. It even strengthens your immune system. Perhaps most impressively, it works with the brain’s natural reward system, providing a healthy high from natural endorphins.
You want to make the most of your life after recovery, and your exercise routine will play an important role in how you live. Commit to a healthy, stress-free life. If you focus on building yourself back up by making good choices each day, it will be easier to stay on the right path. Your recovery is a journey out of darkness and into the light. Put on your jogging shoes and run toward it like your life depends on it, because it just might.