From a change in brain biochemistry to an increase in self-confidence, regular exercise impacts the mind as much as the body. Here are 4 ways your workout reduces stress and improves your mood.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that improves mood, and its function is increased when you exercise. Physical activity also stimulates the release of endorphins, hormones that reduce feelings of pain and increase feelings of pleasure. Due to its power to increase these pleasure hormones, regular exercise is considered an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.
According to Dr. Virgil Wooten, a sleep medicine expert, 20 - 30 minutes of aerobic exercise will increase your body temperature for 4 to 5 hours, but it will then drop to a lower level than if you hadn’t exercised. This drop in temperature promotes restful sleep, which can improve your mood and reduce stress.
With so much emphasis placed on the necessity of a workout partner for motivation, the benefits of exercising alone are often overlooked. Taking a break from conversation allows you to reflect and organize your thoughts. A quiet workout reduces stress and leaves you feeling mentally refreshed.
Sense of accomplishment
The way you feel after reaching your goal weight or finishing a 10K run improves your self-esteem and gives you a more positive outlook. Your sense of accomplishment increases self-efficacy, which is the belief in your ability to accomplish a task. As your self-esteem and self-efficacy build, your positive view of exercise, and the motivation to stick with it, will improve.
Swimming is a great low impact cardiovascular exercise. If you swim and feel an increase in hunger a few hours after your workout, you are not alone. Research shows that swimming can increase appetite.
While the exact reason that swimming causes hunger isn’t clear, some research suggests it is due to body temperature. The cool water of the pool can decrease body temperature and constrict blood vessels in the skin, which can influence the action of hormones that control appetite.
It’s important to pay attention to your hunger and eating patterns to ensure that swimming doesn’t cause you to increase your food intake. There are a few things you can do to control your appetite and stay on track to reach your fitness goals.
Keep track of your hunger. Make notes when you feel hungry throughout the day and compare your non-swimming days to the days you workout in the pool. This will help you identify how swimming is influencing your appetite.
Exercise in warmer water. One study found that people who exercised in cold water consumed 44% more calories afterwards than those who swam in warm water.
Warm up after your workout. Raising your body temperature after swimming may help decrease the effects of cold water on your appetite. Put on warm clothes, take a short walk, or plan to do your strength training or more cardio following your time in the pool.
Plan a healthy snack. Help avoid unexpected hunger and plan to have a healthy snack about 30 minutes after your workout. Eat a balance of carbohydrates and protein such as bananas with peanut butter, yogurt with fresh fruit or a low-sugar energy bar.
Eat more often. On the days you swim, spread out your meals and snacks so that you are refueling the body every few hours.
Stay hydrated. When you stay cool in the water during a workout, it is easy to overlook your hydration needs. Later, when thirst kicks in, it’s possible to mistake it for hunger. Continue to drink fluids at regular intervals before, during and after your workout.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend forward at the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Extend your arms towards the floor, palms facing each other. Contract your upper back muscles as you raise your arms out to the side until they are parallel to the floor. Lower to the starting position and repeat. This exercise can be done with or without free weights.
Bend over and touch the floor. Keep your feet stationary as you walk your hands out in front of you until your body is in a plank position. Hold for 3 seconds and then walk your hands back to the starting place. Try to keep your legs straight as you walk your hands out and back in.
Lie on your stomach and place your hands on the floor just above your rib cage. Slowly push your hands into the floor, and raise your upper body until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Your knees should still be touching the floor. Hold for 3 seconds before lowering to the starting position.
Superman with a Press
Lie on your stomach with your hands resting on the floor near your shoulders. Lift your upper body off the floor about 6 inches while keeping your lower body on the ground. Hold for 2 seconds, and then extend your arms in front of you (like Superman). Return your arms to the starting position. Lower the upper body back to the ground.
Many people experience an increase in appetite when training for events that require long, intense exercise sessions. Adequately fueling your body for the activity is important, but increased hunger makes it easy to overconsume calories.
Stick with healthy foods.
Don’t use your increase in exercise as a way to justify filling up on junk foods. Your body needs to replenish the nutrients used during exercise. Healthy foods will aid in your recovery and help support your immune system. Choose nutrient-dense foods with fiber and protein to stay full and satisfied.
Plan your snacks.
Take note of when you feel hungry and how that relates to your exercise time. Do morning workouts leave you famished in the afternoons? Plan your snacks accordingly.
Know your goals.
An increase in exercise increases your calorie needs. You might be hungry because you truly need more food. Determine if your training goal is to maintain weight or lose weight. Use MyFoodDiary to determine your calorie needs based on your new level of activity, then add nutritious foods to your meals and snacks to help reach your weight goals.
Recognize true hunger.
Identify your hunger cues correctly. Intense training programs commonly cause disruptions in your sleep and stress levels. This can lead to a change in hormones that trigger hunger, cravings, and emotional eating. Dehydration is also often mistaken for hunger.
Stop when you feel full.
After a long run or bike ride, you might feel that you’ve earned a large meal only to leave the table feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. Eat mindfully and stop eating as soon as you start to feel full.
The hip flexors are the group of muscles in your upper thigh near your pelvis. Weak hip flexors can cause pain in your hamstrings, knees and throughout your thigh. This weakness leads to muscular imbalance and a greater risk for injury. Sitting all day at a desk keeps the hip flexors shortened, which can contribute to tightness and pain. Reduce the risk for pain and injury by performing exercises and stretches that elongate and strengthen the area.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Press your heels into the floor as you contract your abdominal muscles, and lift your bottom off of the floor until your torso and thigh are in a straight line. Hold for 10 seconds. Release and lower your bottom back down to the floor. Repeat for 10 to 12 repetitions.
Isometric Hip Flexor Hold
While standing, raise your right knee towards your chest until your upper thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Place your hand on a wall or sturdy chair if you need help maintaining balance while standing on one leg. Return your right foot to the floor, and lift the left knee. Complete 10 to 12 repetitions on each leg.
Seated Knee Raises
Sit up straight in a chair. Use your hip flexor to raise your right knee, so your foot is 6 to 12 inches off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Lower your right foot back to the floor, and repeat with the left leg. Complete 10 to 12 repetitions on each leg.
Kneeling Lunge Stretch
With your right foot forward, move into a lunge position. Lower your left knee to rest on the floor. Your right knee should be directly over your right ankle. Rest your hands on your right thigh, and bend your right knee as you shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in your left hip flexor. Hold for 20 seconds. Shift your weight back to the starting position, and repeat two more times before switching legs.