Exercise – The New Pill

Improving our Emotional Wellbeing with Exercise
By Elizabeth Sukys-Rice, LCSW

Recently I read a book by Dr. John Ratey’s titled Spark – Here he provides a simpler and more straightforward interesting findings, facts, and snippets, and pack them into a “1-page cheatsheet”.

Here is part one.

LESSONS AND HIGHLIGHTS

1. Exercise helps your body utilize energy more efficiently

One of the ways exercise optimizes energy usage is by triggering the production of more receptors for insulin. In the body, having more receptors means better use of blood glucose and stronger cells. Best of all, the receptors stay there, which means the newfound efficiency gets built in.

2. Regular exercise helps you:

A. Be more social

Studies show that by adding physical activity to our lives, we become more socially active—it boosts our confidence and provides an opportunity to meet people. The vigor and motivation that exercise brings helps us establish and maintain social connections.

B. Calm down

As for the trait, the majority of studies show that aerobic exercise significantly alleviates symptoms of any anxiety disorder. But exercise also helps the average person reduce normal feelings of anxiousness.

C. Fight depression

In Britain, doctors now use exercise as a first-line treatment for depression, but it’s vastly underutilized in the United States, and that’s a shame.

D. Improve focus

Paradoxically, one of the best treatment strategies for ADHD involves establishing extremely rigid structure. Over the years, I’ve heard countless parents offer the same observation about their ADHD children: Johnny is so much better when he’s doing tae kwon do.

E. Fight unhealthy addictions

In smokers, just five minutes of intense exercise can be beneficial. Nicotine is an oddball among addictive substances as it works as a stimulant and a relaxant at the same time. Exercise fights the urge to smoke because in addition to smoothly increasing dopamine it also lowers anxiety, tension, and stress levels—the physical irritability that makes people so grouchy when they’re trying to quit. Exercise can fend off cravings for fifty minutes and double or triple the interval to the next cigarette.

F. Make better decisions

…the participants reported that an entire range of behavior related to self-regulation took a turn for the better. Not only did they steadily increase their visits to the gym, they reported that they smoked less, drank less caffeine and alcohol, ate more healthy food and less junk food, curbed impulse spending and overspending, and lost their tempers less often.

G. Have healthier babies

Exercise seems to be more than just not harmful, though. In one study, Clapp compared thirty-four newborns of exercisers to thirty-one of sedentary mothers five days after birth. There’s only so much you can do to gauge behavior at this early stage, but the babies from the exercise group “performed” better on two of six tests: they were more responsive to stimuli and better able to quiet themselves following a disturbance of sound or light. Clapp sees this as significant because it suggests that infants of exercising mothers are more neurologically developed than their counterparts from sedentary mothers.

H. Live longer!

If your brain isn’t actively growing, then it’s dying. Exercise is one of the few ways to counter the process of aging because it slows down the natural decline of the stress threshold.

Portions of this Blog provided by the following resources.

1-Page Cheatsheet: John Ratey’s Spark

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