Wondering how not to fall off the edge of your life? One of the keys to juggling all the curve balls life throws your way is exercise. A regular fitness routine can mean the difference between balance, even amidst life’s hairpin turns, and being paralyzed by stress, anxiety and depression. In fact, exercise is so powerful it can even help blunt the sharp edges of grief.
Fauja Singh completed his first marathon at the ripe old age of 89. Eleven years later, the centenarian finished theTorontomarathon. He did it in 8 hours, 25 minutes and 17 seconds. Not much longer than many of us spend on a days’ work. A year later, at 101 years old, Singh ran theLondonmarathon in 7 hours and 50 minutes.
Grief brought Singh to marathoning. He began shortly after the death of his son and wife. Singh was on to something. One of the benefits of exercise is the release of endorphins, feel good chemicals in the body that boost your mood, it promotes. Another benefit of exercise? Practiced regularly exercise brings a feeling of control to your life that is critical not just for managing grief, but also for maintaining good mental health.
My own life bears this out. I was four months into training for my first marathon when my youngest brother died. The structure of my training program and my choice to continue it, along with the physical release of moving through so many miles, kept me feeling sane. Being physically active can give you some traction when you feel emotionally stuck.
Marilou Powers Russell completed 100 marathons, includingBoston, in only 6 years. She was overweight, unhappy and recently divorced when she started running in her mid 40’s. You might say she was running for her life. Running is an excellent way to tune up your body and your mind.
What do Singh and Russell have in common? Aside from amazing determination they both understand the impact of movement on mental health. The connection between mind and body is undeniable. Countless studies point to the benefits of a regular fitness regime in promoting emotional health. What’s even better is it’s never too late to start exercising. Studies of women older than 65 showed improved mental function among those that exercised when compared with women who were more sedentary.
It is hard to argue with the benefits of exercise. No matter your goal, exercise is likely to help. Looking for ways to reduce anxiety or depression? Try lacing up your running shoes (walking works, too), hitting the bike trail or settling on a yoga mat. Remarkably, regular exercise is as effective as prescription medication in reducing mild to moderate depression. Wondering how to sleep better or even boost your confidence? Exercise can help you there, too. When it comes to being active there really is no down side. In fact, the double dose of benefits –good for your body and good for your mind – should make it doubly hard not to get started.