Let’s get physical!
Survey says even just five minutes of walking can alleviate the nastiest case of ‘the Mondays’
Exercising is the number one way for people to lose weight and gain muscle, but now there is a lot of research suggesting that it can also help with everything from depression to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
Most of us are aware that when we begin to become more physically active, daily activities become a lot easier. But researchers are looking into what exactly goes on when we are active and how that links to happiness. There is also a connection on how well our workout will go depending on the time of day that we work out.
A recent study from Penn State University found that when you start exercising, your brain recognizes it as a “moment of stress” and as your heart rate increases. Your brain thinks you’re either fighting an enemy or fleeing from it. To protect ourselves and brains, our bodies release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Euphoric Factor) which acts as a reset switch. This is why after working out, whether it be a walk or an intense kick-boxing class, you may feel at ease and even happy.
So what exactly is it that makes us so happy after being physically active? In the study from Penn State University also found that to become less stressed and ultimately happier, we have to do some form physical activity per day no matter how hard or how long the exercise is. The study also unveiled that physical activity is linked to memory.
“Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning,” stated the university study.
So it’s good to know that we don’t need to become professional athletes to feel good, it’s actually the opposite. Studies have found that the first 20 minutes of moving around after you have been really inactive provide the most health benefits. So after a long Netflix marathon, get up and go for a quick 20 minute walk or run to get those happy endorphins moving through your brain.
By choosing to do physical activity, not only are you becoming physically healthier, you are also helping your mental health.
Although any physical activity at any time of the day is better than none at all, studies are showing that time of day, body temperature and power input all come in to play as well in terms of the effects of the work-out on our bodies and how we feel afterwards.
Now people can be put into two categories: morning people, and the rest of us. Some people are eager to get up early before work and get in a quick sweat session before most people are even up.
To find out when it’s best to work out, you need to know that our body is ruled by rhythms. Sleep cycles, energy levels and body temperature all effect this.
In a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers investigated one particular cycle, the circadian cycle and how it affects exercise.
Think of the circadian rhythm as the power house of biological cycles. The circadian is controlled by an internal clock and changes itself based on different stimuli. The stimuli in this case is light, the rising and setting of the sun, but in today’s world we can alter this with the advent of electricity.
The study found that a warmed up body is best when exercising, and core body temperatures were lower in the morning than in the evening. This means that those morning workout people may not be reaping all the benefits than if they were to work out later in the day or in the evening.
Lastly, it goes without saying that if you eat junk food and are trying to lose weight … it’s just not going to happen. Junk food contains high amounts of fat and sugar which can directly affect your energy levels.
When you eat something that is full of simple sugars like candy, a donut or an energy drink, your blood sugars immediately are raised and you will feel a burst of energy. You will also feel an equally quick crash not long afterwards. You’ll get the same energy results you are looking for, and need as a student, if you introduce even a bit of physical activity into your day. You won’t feel the horrible crash afterwards like you do when you depend on junk food for a quick energy fix.
As well, if you’re trying to gain muscle definition, eating foods with high fat content will make this physically impossible. Because fat accumulates under the skin, and on top of the muscle, even if you exercise daily you will never see the results. Also, muscle growth requires protein, not fats and sugars.
The best thing you can do for your physical and mental health is to become more active. Start out small and work your way up. Your mood will instantly change and you will eventually feel happy and less stressed.
If you are busy, the ideal time to work out is at night anyways, so plan to go for a walk or participate in an outdoor fitness class. Remember not to fill your body with sugary foods that are high in fat. Stick to something simple, like a piece of toast with peanut butter, or if you’re on the go grab a quick smoothie. No matter how long your workout is, be sure to fuel your body with the essentials like protein, carbohydrates and water.