Mind And Body
Mind And Body
John Spencer Ellis (Author, TV Show Host, Trainer and CEO, National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association) gives expert video advice on: Can exercise improve my mental health?; Can exercise improve my sleep?; Can exercise lower my blood pressure? and more...
Can exercise improve my mental health?
Physical activity improves mental acuity for a couple of different reasons. One, it increases blood flow to the brain. It increases blood flow to your entire body, and so if your brain is better supplied with blood, it's also going to have more oxygen and you're going to be able to think more clearly. It just simply makes your whole body work better, and if you're eating healthily along with the exercise, you're also nourishing your brain. In general terms, whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain, whether it's physical activity or the nutrients that you put in your body. So, exercise is absolutely imperative to overall mental health as well as physical health.
Can exercise counteract the effects of aging?
When we exercise, we enhance our body's ability to fight off disease, we bolster our immune system, we're better able to maintain homeostasis (that's our normal state of being), and because of all those things we reduce the signs of aging. What exercise helps us do, although it doesn't sound very glamorous, is something called compressed morbidity. The example would be if you are someone who does not take care of themselves, and you live to be 80 years old; you may be in poor health from 50 to 80. However, if you exercise and do all the right things, you may only be in poor health the last five years of your life. So, your morbidity was compressed into the latter portion of your years, and exercise can help do that.
Can exercise alleviate constipation?
If you're exercising and eating right and you're well hydrated, that will also help appropriate bowel movements. The other thing that is very beneficial is yoga. Certain yoga postures - specifically different twisting rotations, either standing, or more specifically seated or lying down - can help stimulate the digestive process. Then there are certain types of self-massage that you can do, or have a massage therapist work with you to actually trace the large bowel in the right direction and keep things moving along; it makes a tremendous difference. So, absolutely, exercise is imperative to proper digestive health.
Can exercise improve my sleep?
Exercise helps improve your sleep for a couple of different reasons. One is that you will have a greater physiological demand for sleep because you challenged your body and then it needs to recover. Remember the only time your body grows or develops or becomes enhanced or improves is not during the physical activity but it's in the night and the nights following the activity when you recover. Specifically in REM sleep, growth hormone is released episodically throughout the day about every 30-45 minutes but more is released at night and even more during REM sleep, rapid eye movement. So when you increase your fitness activity level to an appropriate point, you will have a greater demand for sleep and if all things are going as they should you will also get better quality sleep. You'll get better REM sleep and you will increase the amount of growth hormone which will then improve your physiological benefits from the exercise as well.
Can exercise help me quit smoking?
Exercise can help you quit smoking simply from the standpoint that if you're doing everything else good for your body, psychologically it is much less likely that you'd want to poison your body. So from that simple perspective, the more good things you do for it, the fewer bad things you will also want to do. I'll give you another analogy is that people say, "Well, if I just have one cheat day, if I eat really, really well, but if I have one cheat day, would that be alright?"I let them try it, and what happens is they feel so good on the days that they eat well and they eat organic foods and then they have a cheat day and their allergies come back and they feel bad, then they realize it really wasn't a good idea. And that's ultimately what happens with smoking as well. So if you envelope the fitness lifestyle and then you have one bad habit like smoking, it is unlikely that you'll want to continue that over time because you'll want to continue that process of being better and better to yourself.
Can exercise reduce the risk of disease?
Exercise can help reduce the likelihood of you acquiring a disease because it bolsters your immune system. It allows your body to maintain homeostasis, that's its normal state of being. All systems go; everything's working as it should. The way I perceive it, when you're in really good shape, you have super homeostasis. It's not just that all systems are go, it's that everything is at a very high level of functionality. Your body's better able to respond, your blood chemistry is correct, and you also have the physical ability to defend yourself against a foreign invader, whatever that may be. If your body is compromised because it's not physically strong, and you get some sort of disease process, it may get the better of you. This may be simply down to whether you have had to take medicines, if the disease has given you a fever or it's dehydrated your body, or if you've lost muscle mass when you didn't have much to begin with; if so, you're really at a deficit. If your body's incredibly strong and you do get ill, you're better able to fight it off, win, and bounce back quickly as well.
How does exercise help my heart and lungs function more efficiently?
Exercise helps your entire body work better. Two of the main areas that are benefitted most are your heart and your lungs. From cardiovascular exercise, your heart is able to push out more blood per beat. That's why a conditioned athlete can have a lower resting heart rate because each time the heart beats (this is called the stroke volume), the amount of blood that's pushed out is enhanced. That happens in the left ventricle primarily and it's called left ventricle hypertrophy, growth of the left ventricle. Resistance training, on the other hand, actually thickens the myocardium; the heart muscle, the power to push out and create the power. So your heart benefits two different ways. Your lungs also benefit. Ironically, people think that their lungs get bigger if you are a cyclist like Lance Armstrong. That's not the case. Your lungs don't change in size. They may become more pliable and be a little more elastic, and they function better but their primary change is their ability to extract oxygen from air and get it to the working muscle and expire waste products carbon dioxide. That's how your lungs benefit and that's the physiological change that takes place which also improves our performance.
Can exercise lower my blood pressure?
Exercise affects blood pressure, both during and following exercise. During exercise your blood pressure will actually increase because the amount of blood being pumped out of your heart against the vessel walls is greater. It's like trying to push more water through a garden hose, so the pressure will increase. That's a normal response during exercise. After exercise, your heart is so efficient that it doesn't have to beat as many times per minute and it can just pump out a good volume of blood, and the vessels also have more elasticity, so they're more pliable and can accommodate that workload. They're also more relaxed, and everything just functions better. That's how you're better able to control your blood pressure through exercise.
Can exercise improve my sexual performance?
Oftentimes people want to know if exercise will improve their sexual enjoyment or sexual performance. The answer is yes for a multitude of reasons. If you physically have the endurance to continue, well then that's obviously a plus. If you feel better about your body, you're more likely to want to enjoy the intimacy as well, and you're also likely to be more attractive to your mate. Furthermore, just from a physiology perspective, if everything else functions better, there's no reason that your sexual function wouldn't also be enhanced. So, exercise is as important, or much more important than any pill that is sold on the market to improve sexual performance.