Many of us will already be aware that exercise is good for our bodies. Regular exercise contributes to cardiovascular health, weight management, immune function…the list goes on. But when was the last time you considered the effect that your workout regime may be having on your mental health?
Read on for our in-house nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr’s top mental health and exercise benefits.
One of the magic ways that exercise helps us manage stress levels, is by reducing our body’s stress hormones — cortisol and adrenaline. Exercise also stimulates the production of brain chemicals that act as mood lifters. Think endorphins!
Exercise can give us a confidence boost. Whether trying to lose weight, gain muscle or improve endurance or performance — it can be a great boost to our self-esteem and with that comes daily confidence.
Our brains thrive on exercise. Cardiovascular exercise can promote neurogenesis — a process that helps to boost brain performance. And as if that wasn’t a good enough reason to hit the tarmac regular exercise has also been shown to support memory and focus.
Boosts your mood
Exercise is scientifically proven to boost our moods and lessen symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
A 2017 review on the effects of exercise published in the journal Brain Plasticity, found that after just one bout of exercise, participants reported improved mood and found a reduction in tension, depression, and anger. Result!
Ways to exercise for your mental health:
It is easy, free and flexible and one of the exercise options that is a thumbs up during the Covid pandemic. Pop on your trainers and rain coat and get out into natural light and nature for a walk. Not only will the movement be beneficial, but exposure to natural light can help boost energy and mood, whilst studies have shown that just 20 minutes of nature exposure a day can reduce our stress hormones. Go and walk around something green today!
This might sound like an obvious one to some, but yoga can be both soothing and a sweaty stress relief. The incorporation of breath work in yoga works to take our bodies from a fight or flight mode, into the rest and digest mode (where we eat and relax). If you don’t have time for a full on vinyasa take a few deep breaths and some downward dogs to feel the yogi benefits.
One of the great things about dancing is it is easy and no equipment is needed. Select your favourite playlist, find a space in your home and MOVE. Have young ones at home, get them involved or ask them to teach you a dance routine. You might just end up with some ab goals from the giggles.
How exercise helps sleep
Regular exercise, particularly in the morning or afternoon, can impact the quality of your sleep by raising your body temperature a few degrees. Later in the day, when your internal thermostat drops back to its normal range, this can trigger feelings of drowsiness and help you drop off to sleep. If you exercise outdoors, you’ll be exposed to natural light, an important element in helping your body establish a good sleep-wake cycle.
How much should you sweat?
If you strive to complete about 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week, you’ll help improve your sleep quality and also meet the national guidelines for physical activity. This works out to about 30 minutes, five times a week. Can’t fit that much in? Even just 10 minutes a day of walking, swimming or biking can improve your nightly zzz’s.
The right time to work out
Believe it or not, there are actually optimal times during the day for exercise. To reap the benefits of solid nighttime sleep, it’s better to hit the gym in the morning or afternoon, rather than in the evening. By working out in the morning, you’ll enjoy longer, deeper sleep at night; an afternoon session will allow your body temperature to rise, then fall, just when you’re ready to hit the hay. Evening exercise doesn’t necessarily allow enough time for this temperature change to occur. Plus, the stimulation from a workout at a later hour may keep you awake.
The sleep benefits from exercise may be greater for some people than others. But even if it isn’t the cure-all you’ve been hoping for, you can feel good knowing that by incorporating regular workouts into your week, you are moving your health in the right direction.
Sipping on our MEDA Sleep during the evening will complement your routine perfectly.
The MEDA team
In the context of COVID-19, this question has gained urgency and also, thanks to recent research, answers. The latest science suggests that being fit boosts our immune systems, and that even a single workout can improve our ability to fight off germs.
Some studies also indicate that the types and amount of exercise may influence how exercise affects our immune responses. More is not necessarily better.
Here is an overview of the state of today’s science; how and why exercise interacts with our immune systems and whether we should plan to remain active, even as the incidence of new virus cases continues to grow. Many of us who exercise have heard from well-meaning friends, spouses or parents that strenuous exercise will reduce our immune systems, opening us to pathogens and illness. That notion gained credence in the late 1980s, the result of studies showing that “marathon running increased the incidence of infection symptoms among runners in the days and weeks after the race,” says John Campbell, a professor of health science at the University of Bath in England and co-author of an influential 2018 review of exercise and immunity.
At the same time, some research hinted that a single, strenuous workout might temporarily diminish our immune responses soon afterward, putting us at heightened risk for an opportunistic infection after the workout. This possibility was known as the “open window” theory and relied on experiments in people showing that immune cells flooded our bloodstreams immediately after a hard workout and then abruptly disappeared. This disappearance seemed to leave us with lowered levels of the cells that recognise and fight pathogenic intruders, offering germs an open window for incursions.
Taken as a whole, this research about exercise and our immune systems tells us that “there is no or limited reliable evidence for exercise directly increasing the chance of developing any kind of viral infection,” says James Turner, co-author of the 2018 review about exercise and immunity and also a professor of health science at the University of Bath.
“So, it is safe to exercise, despite concerns about Coronavirus” he concludes. Exercise, in fact, will probably lessen the risk of an infection, he says.
There are caveats, though. If you have not been exercising, now might not be the ideal moment to start an extremely ambitious and tiring new workout routine.
“It is fair to say that a large increase in exercise intensity and/or duration, especially in people new to exercise, might have transient negative effects on the immune system,” says Jeffrey Woods, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, who studies exercise and immunity and led the mouse study.
Yoga – the ancient Indian tradition of physical postures combined with breathing techniques – is as part and parcel of 21st century urban living as cappucchinos and croissants. But yoga is much more than your average wellness fad. It is a tried and tested technique to settle our stressed out minds and get us connected with our bodies again. Not unlike the effects of taking CBD, the wonder compound in hemp.
How about combining CBD with yoga? Could taking CBD help deepen your practice by calming your mind and helping to loosen up restricted joints?
What is yoga?
Most of us probably have an idea of what we think yoga is. Maybe we’ve tried out a class in our local gym or gone on a yoga retreat somewhere idyllic. If right now, you’re imagining Madonna with her leg wrapped around her ears, believe it or not, this isn’t an accurate representation of yoga.
Yoga literally means union, a bringing together of mind, body and spirit. This can happen in the most subtle of movements, and certainly doesn’t require any eye-watering gymnastics. In fact, if you find yourself straining to keep up with your bendy neighbour, you know that mystical union has been lost.
That said, most yogis regularly attending yoga classes, notice an increase in flexibility, strength, and confidence in their own body. Other health benefits include improved bone density, increased blood flow, better sleep, a strengthened immune system, and greater mental clarity.
Sometimes though, after a nine hour day at the office, weathering the emotional outbursts of a sociopathic boss, feeling all zen on our yoga mat can seem like an impossible task. Increasingly, urban yogis are reaching for the balancing powers of CBD oil, the all natural compound found in hemp.
Yoga and hemp – a long history together
Hemp, like yoga, finds its origins in india. In fact, according to ancient texts, the god Shiva gave hemp to mankind after returning from the Himalayas.
The 19th century Indian Hemp Commission recognised hemp’s spiritual significance to Hindus stating: “To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy…So holy a plant should have special rearing. Shiva explains to his wife, Parvati, how, in sowing hemp seed, you should keep repeating the spell ‘Bhangi’, ‘Bhangi’, apparently that the sound of that guardian name may scare the evil tare- sowing influences…Much of the holiness of bhang is due to its virtue of clearing the head and stimulating the brain to thought. Among ascetics the sect known as Atits are specially devoted to hemp. No social or religious gathering of Atits is complete without the use of the hemp plant.” CBD – 21st century hemp health
CBD, otherwise known as cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in hemp. Unlike the hemp concoctions enjoyed by ancient yogis and sadhus, CBD doesn’t have any intoxicating effect. Quite the contrary, CBD is thought to aid concentration and focus.
Recently, CBD has been splashed across the press and wellness media, thanks to its calming properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and balancing nature on our bodies and minds.
CBD is thought to help regulate our endocannabinoid system (ECS) – the body’s complex network of receptor sites and neurotransmitters constantly working to create homeostasis across all biological activity. Stress, lack of sleep, too much alcohol, and poor diet can all deplete our ECS, leading to a host of health conditions such as IBS, fibromyalgia, and migraines.
In the UK, CBD is available as a health supplement, with many people incorporating CBD products into their daily wellness routine, just like any other vitamin or mineral.
CBD and yoga – a match made in heaven
So what happens when you combine CBD and yoga?
First things first, it’s important to take your chosen CBD product about half an hour before starting a yoga session. That’s because CBD takes between 20 minutes to an hour to have an effect, depending on the chosen delivery method (oil, edibles, vaping etc).
Once CBD is working its wonders, most people find their agitated minds feel calmer and less scattered. I know when I start a yoga class, my brain is usually picking over what’s happened in the preceding 12 hours, or planning what I’m going to eat when I get home. This is completely normal, but the fact that CBD can ease that journey into the present moment, makes it a useful way to get the most out of your yoga class.
On the purely physical level, CBD may also enhance the yoga experience. As a powerful anti- inflammatory compound and muscle relaxant, CBD can allow you to go deeper into your postures, getting close up and personal with those uncomfortable physical edges we normally flee from in life.
But don’t take our word for it. Why not test out our MEDA CBD drinks before a class and compare their effects? We’d love to hear about your experiences of combining MEDA CBD nutritional range with your yoga practice. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.