Exercise and Mental Wellbeing – it’s not just about endorphins #mentalhealthweek

I’m sure you’ve heard that one of the fantastic benefits of exercise, especially when it comes to your mental wellbeing, is that it boosts endorphins – right?

But it can do SO much more than that, because of one simple mechanism, and I am going to make it really easy for you to understand. Hopefully, the more you understand about how exercise can help you, the more likely you will be to include it into your life.

Stress is something that we all deal with every single day. Not only is stress considered to be mentally stressful events in our lives, but sleep deprivation, injury, too much exercise (or new exercise), food deprivation, excesses of food, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and more, all cause stress to our bodies. Too much stress has a damaging effect, which not only impacts your nervous system, but can put you at risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disorders, to name a few. This is because when we are stressed, we produce high levels of our stress hormone, cortisol (I’ll tell you more about that in a moment).

But of course, we can’t just make stress disappear – in fact, we need our natural stress response to protect us if and when we are in danger; that’s why it exists. Our stress response  prepares our body to ‘fight or flight’ (take action or flee) in the moment – this is when you are “running on adrenaline”. It’s meant to be a short-term response, where systems that aren’t required in that moment (such as your digestive system) are shut down in favour of the systems that will help you in the presence of danger (eg. your heart and your muscles).

But when this stress is prolonged, as it often is in the modern world, our bodies pump out cortisol in response.

Cortisol, as I said, is our stress hormone. Normally, it’s the hormone that wakes us up in the morning in response to the sun, has anti-stress and anti-inflammatory functions, forms glucose  to be used for energy from non-carbohydrate sources, and helps the formation of short-term memory,  but, especially in excess, in times of ongoing stress, it has incredibly damaging effects. These include; insomnia, fat deposition around the belly (which is both a sign of excess fat around the organs and is difficult to burn off), a weakened immune system, muscle wasting and reduced bone formation, and impaired learning.

The damaging effects of cortisol can be reversed if we take steps to improve our response to stress, prioritise self-care and make a conscious effect to relax and breath. This is where exercise can provide a huge benefit.

You know how some days, when you’re feeling really stressed, and after a walk or a workout where you’ve got your blood pumping and taking your mind away from whatever is causing you stress, you feel clearer, calmer, better?

This isn’t just the endorphins you’ve released; your exercise has broken down a big chunk of your excess cortisol, essentially breaking down your stress.

Over time, regular exercise can have a huge impact on your stress, which can provide relief for anxiety, depression and the stresses of every day life. 30 minutes of mild exercise (walking, yoga, swimming, etc) is recommended every day to achieve this benefit.

I find that on the days that exercise feels like the last thing that I want to do, or the stress of the day has convinced me that I don’t have the time to practice my self-care, reminding myself of this function of exercise can really help to motivate me.

Some other benefits of exercise include:

  • Strengthening my bones when the muscles I use pull on them. This signals to my bones that I still need their strength to keep me standing and keep  me upright, which helps to reduce my risk of osteoporosis
  • Signalling my cells to take up the glucose (sugar) in my blood for energy without the use of insulin. These transporters are known as GLUT-4, and stimulating their use reduces my reliance on insulin, reducing my risk of insulin resistance and Type-2 Diabetes
  • Promotes the movement of blood through my body. This helps the transport of nutrients to and the removal of waste products from, all of the cells in my body. This also stimulates the smooth muscles in my digestive system, which means I’m better digesting and absorbing my nutrients

I find it so much more fascinating and empowering to think about exercise in these ways than to simply think about it from an aesthetic perspective and what it can do for the way that I look. It’s a much more mindful way to exercise and keeps you in touch with how your body works, encouraging you to be grateful for all of the fascinating ways your body helps you get around.

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For more information like this, in a LIVE setting, check out my next Nutrition for REAL People workshop in Brisbane, ‘Nutrition for Anxiety’ on 24th October

Hiking Lamington National Park:: Mira’s Mates: Miranda Vlogs

A couple of weeks ago some of my favourite people organised a hike for us at a place called Binna Burra in Lamington National Park, South East Queensland. It was a day filled with so many fascinating conversations, and we all had something we could teach one another as we walked the altogether 17km.

Being in nature with people that I love; it was a perfect day.

This short video hopefully captures the adventure and shenanigans of the day, (complete with dorky nicknames) and is soundtracked by the gorgeous 19th Century Strongmen, whose EP you can purchase here for $4 (it’s a beautiful collection of work, and I highly recommend it). They also have a YouTube channel and Facebook page. The song is called, “Let’s Go”.

My Top 5 Tips to Increase Energy: Part 2

Fatigue can be quite debilitating, but luckily, there are many natural and easy ways to overcome fatigue and boost your energy, enabling you to achieve everything that you need to day-to-day.

Below is Part 2 of my 5 Top Tips for Increasing Energy. These short videos are give you quick strategies that are easy to put into your day – even when you do feel too tired! You can view Part 1 here.

Don’t forget that my Nutrition for REAL People workshop: Nutrition for Fatigue is 6pm, Wednesday, 24th June – which is next week! For your chance to get a more in-depth understanding of fatigue and achievable strategies to give you long-lasting energy, make sure you book your ticket, as seats are limited.

The “One Day” That Actually Arrived

With something as simple as investing in a monthly pass to a yoga class, I have experienced so much change in my life.

I have been practicing yoga for around 3 1/2 years and it truly is something that works for me, fitness-wise. I love the feeling of strength and femininity that yoga gives me, the constant challenge and the fact that I can do it almost anywhere. (You can tell just by looking at my disheveled old yoga mat, that it’s been quite a long love affair).

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Cultivating Calm & Soothing Anxiety with Nutritional Medicine

Cultivate Calm Yoga is a beautiful yoga space in East Brisbane, providing a range of different yoga practices and teachers to bring calm and balance to the lives of busy Brisbanites. With our shared interest in stress relief, relaxation, yoga (of course) and anxiety, I was asked to share my best nutritional tips for dealing with and relieving anxiety.

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Trivial Pursuit (Brisbane GIVEAWAY)

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen that I’m a big fan of going to trivia with my mates. I actually really love trivia, and though my own memory recall for things like names of people, places, etc is pretty terrible, I am quite good at pop culture trivia and the occasional science question and it goes along very well with my incredibly competitive nature. The best thing is, that engaging in activities that stimulate brain activity act like exercise for your brain and by keeping it active, may reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life (all while rubbing it in the faces of that annoying team that used to win all the time but now we do – take that Ramrod!! – competitive? Who, me?).

Image by Lisa Borella

Image by Lisa Borella

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