Tuesday, November 30, 2021

How Exercise Can Make You More Resilient To Stress

Let’s be real: Life is freaking hard. Stuff happens. Unexpected stuff, like a beloved pet passing away or a fender bender on the highway during rush hour. Stressful stuff, like a tight deadline or a scheduling conflict at work. Money issues. Health issues. Relationship issues. You name it, we all got it.

So having the resilience to deal with life’s stresses head-on is crucial; an inability to cope will almost certainly lead to anxiety and depression.  But what if you could increase your mental toughness and resilience with exercise. How? Because what your body does physically affects the chemistry of your brain and vice versa.

Here are some fascinating, science-backed facts that demonstrate how exercise can help you be more resilient.

1. Releases Feel-Good Chemicals

Exercise releases endorphins and dopamine, which are feel-good chemicals that relax and reduce our perception of pain.

If you’ve ever been in the midst of a really intense workout session, then you know that even if your workout gets tough, your body feels like it can keep going.

And when you finally finish or take a break, your brain releases those chemicals that make everything seem awesome again (which may be part of what makes exercising so addictive).

More recently, scientists have discovered that exercise also causes your body to produce endocannabinoids— a neurochemical that’s strikingly similar to the cannabinoids found in weed or CBD oil.

It’s thought that these special molecules could be partially responsible for the famously elusive “runner’s high” that is comparable to a mild cannabis buzz. But if you’re not a jogger, no worries — the effect can be achieved through any moderate-intensity exercise.

As if that weren’t enough happiness getting cranked into your system, your muscles also release myokines into your blood when you exercise, making you more resilient to stress. The name of this protein is Irisin, and researchers sometimes refer to it as “the hope molecule.”

That’s right; exercise literally pumps hope into your body. If that doesn’t help you build resilience, I don’t know what will!

2. Provides an Outlet for Frustration

Stress releases cortisol and adrenaline, which can actually kill brain cells. But this is why exercise is so great — it not only helps lower cortisol levels, but it stimulates the release of these BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) molecules that protect your brain.

And getting those feel-good endorphins we just talked about can also provide an emotional outlet in times of frustration or sadness.

So after a bad day at work, sometimes exercising can be just the antidote you need.

High-intensity exercise is perfect for this. Try kickboxing, circuit training, or a HIIT spinning sesh.

Exercising after work helps sweat out all the day’s aggravations and little annoyances that otherwise get bottled up.

3. Instills Self-Confidence

It turns out that when we feel good about ourselves and what we can accomplish physically, it teaches us to be more confident about what we can achieve outside the gym.

The self-esteem/exercise connection has been well-documented in the research as well.

For example, one study of 84 male university students found that those who worked out for 45 minutes three times a week had more self-confidence after eight weeks than those who did not follow an exercise regime.

The thing is, it’s not just the act of exercising that helps you cope with stress but how good you feel about yourself when exercising.

So if you’re someone who has trouble getting started, try this: don’t worry so much about working out — instead, focus on strengthening your emotional connection to exercise. That way, once you actually do start to work out, your mind will already be on board with the idea (because you’ve already built a positive emotional connection), and you will enjoy that physical activity experience even more than usual.

4. Regulates Emotions

Research shows that exercise can help regulate emotions, which is crucial for handling difficult challenges in life.

Part of this is the reasons we already talked about like the feel-good hormones produced during exercise and how sweating it out can release your frustrations.

But another reason is because of something called proprioception, which is your mind’s ability to sense your body’s movements.

You can use this proprioception to build resilience.

For example, if you make powerful movements with your body, like when you lift heavy weights, your mind will think, “I feel powerful.”

Push yourself an extra mile in your weekend run, and your mind will think, “I feel tenacious.”

5. Grounds You in the Present

It’s so easy to let obstacles in our life consume our thoughts and overtake us with worry.

Part of resilience is the ability to focus on what you can do in the here and now.

And nothing makes you more present than exercise.

Exercise is almost a kind of moving meditation because it forces you to focus on your breathing and think about what’s going on right now.

Think about it. How much are you fretting about the future when you’re trying to break your planking PR? Chances are, you’re extremely focused present — almost too focused!

Next time you’re face to face with a difficult situation in your life that’s making you anxious, try going for a 15-minute jog (or even a brisk walk). Focus on your putting one foot in front of the other and sync your breathing. You will feel more calm and resilient by the end of those 15 minutes.

The effect will be even better if you run/walk outside, preferably through a trail or park where you will reap the benefits of “Green Exercise.”

Green exercise is any physical activity you do outside in nature that is scientifically proven to improve your mental health and boost your overall sense of well-being.  Studies show that even 15 minutes walking in nature is enough to feel more capable in the face of adversity.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, a healthy body facilitates a healthy mind — and a healthy mind is better equipped to deal with life’s inevitable setbacks.

So although there’s no magic pill that will erase your problems, exercising regularly can make you feel more prepared to tackle them.

If you are new to working out, there’s nothing wrong with starting small. Remember, even a 15-minute walk can make all the difference!

So next time life gets you down, get moving — your body and mind will thank you!


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Stay On Track During The Thanksgiving Holiday

Thanksgiving should be one day out of the year where you throw caution to the wind and enjoy whatever you want. But if you overdo it, you may feel tired, sluggish, and head down a slippery slope of overindulging until New Year's Day. You can enjoy your feast while also keeping on track with your goals. 

Here are eight tips for staying on track during Thanksgiving:

  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after your meals.
  • Prioritize protein and veggies.
  • Enjoy the seasonal stuff, but be picky with your indulgences.
  • Eat slowly and without distractions.  
  • Stop eating when you're full or when something is no longer enjoyable for you.
  • Be aware of grazing.
  • Use the extra energy to kill your next workout.  
  • Lastly, have a great week, and focus more on spending time with your loved ones rather than obsessing over your diet.

You should enjoy the stuffing and pumpkin pie, but you don't need to fill your plate with both; stick to moderate portion sizes to enjoy your food without going overboard. Same goes for grazing; it's easy to hang out in the kitchen and mindlessly munch on crackers, cheese, and other apps before you sit down to eat. Be mindful of what you put on your plate, and make sure you eat slowly and enjoy every bite.

Most of all, enjoy the holiday! You're bound to eat more than you typically do, which is fine; one day won't derail the rest of your year's worth of progress. If you do overdo it and feel sluggish, make sure you get right back to your healthy habits the next day.  


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Practicing Gratitude Has Profound Health Benefits


Before the feast begins, everyone around the table shares something that makes them feel grateful. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition in many U.S. families, but you might be surprised to learn that the simple exercise can have dramatic benefits.

For those who can resist diving into the turkey and mashed potatoes for a few minutes to share their thanks first, evidence indicates that gratitude can boost health and well-being.

Benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and a host of other things we associate with better health. The limits to gratitude’s health benefits are really in how much you pay attention to feeling and practicing gratitude.

You might get a warm glow from expressing gratitude once a year at Thanksgiving. To truly derive long-lasting benefits, though, experts say you should make it a part of your daily or weekly routine. Scientific evidence from gratitude research backs up a few typical approaches, including saying thanks to people who don’t expect it and writing down a few things each day that make you grateful. It’s very similar to working out, in that the more you practice, the better you get.  The more you practice, the easier it is to feel grateful when you need it.

Research has found links between gratitude and brain structures also tied to social bonding, reward and stress relief. Other studies have revealed connections between the tendency to feel grateful and a chemical called oxytocin that promotes social ties.

Research on gratitude has also found associations with other health benefits, including general well-being, better sleep, more generosity and less depression.  It makes sense that gratitude is beneficial from an evolutionary perspective. Gratitude is such a key function of our social lives and our evolution as a species. People who did not develop gratitude or grateful relationships with others, it’s very unlikely they would have survived in a social context.

There’s something wonderful about getting together with people and being thankful, so you may not be able to be with your family or loved ones, but it may be a time to be brave and ask other people to get together — it doesn’t have to be fancy — and talk about what you’re thankful for.

Gratitude can help people cope with stress and build stronger relationships

Taking a few moments to reflect on gratitude can broaden your perspective, helping you find meaning in small but enjoyable moments, like drinking a delicious cup of coffee or taking a hot shower. Finding those minor sources of joy can keep you from dwelling on what you don’t have, and instead help you think about what makes you happy.

Writing in a gratitude journal can build a reserve of positive feelings that you can draw on during rougher patches in life. And sharing thanks with people in your life who make you grateful can pay off with deeper connections.

People who are grateful get less triggered or angry, they have more positive feelings, and in some ways, that attracts other people. When you feel these positive emotions and relish good experiences with others, there’s a bonding in that, and it tends to build stronger relationships.

Whether spiritual or philosophical, gratitude has roots throughout human history

Gratitude is a common thread through many religions and philosophies. Cicero reportedly called it the “mother of all virtues.” Greek philosopher Epictetus said: “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” And Charles Dickens shared a similar sentiment with his oft-quoted phrase, “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Whether you embrace a spiritual, religious or secular approach to feeling grateful, practicing gratitude reflects a recognition that the positive things in life have a source beyond ourselves. To be grateful is to express a personal relationship with that source, whether understood as an anthropomorphic deity or as the cosmos, the universe or the greater world… That’s a profound thing.

Tips on practicing gratitude

So what are some proven techniques to becoming a more grateful person? Gratitude research has shown that some of the most effective approaches include maintaining a gratitude journal, writing personal thank-you notes and regularly expressing gratitude to others in person.  Keep a gratitude jar as a family, have them write on a piece of paper what they are grateful for every day and place it in the jar.  During dinner or leisure time, take a few of the notes out of the jar and enjoy reading one another’s thoughts.  

As for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday there’s no wrong way to practice gratitude. Going around the table to share thanks, writing positive messages to others or simply taking the time to connect with friends and family are all good ways to get started.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

How Physical Activity Impacts Sleep

Exercise is essential to your overall health and wellbeing. Even small amounts of physical activity can improve your mood and cognitive function, alleviate anxiety, and decrease your risk of diseases and other medical conditions. Studies have also found that physical activity helps people sleep better. That said, how, how much, and when you exercise will affect your sleep in different ways.

Additionally, a good night’s sleep is important for those who exercise regularly. Sleep allows your body to recover from the previous day. Getting enough rest after a workout strengthens your muscle and tissues, which can help you avoid fatigue and exercise-related injuries. Conversely, poor sleep may lead to  lower physical activity levels during the day.

Does Physical Activity Help You Sleep Better?

Numerous studies have explored the link between exercise and sleep, and most conclude that certain types of physical activity improve sleep quality and duration. Interestingly, other forms of exercise can decrease sleep quality and prevent us from getting enough rest.

The best exercise to improve sleep largely depends on how old you are. For instance, some studies have found that moderate exercise training over the course of several weeks can improve sleep quality and duration for adolescents, whereas vigorous exercise during the same timespan has been shown to decrease sleep duration for some teens.

Regular exercise can help healthy adults sleep better. While acute physical activity can have a small effect on sleep quality and duration, regular, moderate exercise can extend sleep duration, improve sleep quality, and decrease sleep onset, or the time it takes to fall asleep.

For adults with sleep disorders, exercise needs may be a bit different. One study found that moderate resistance training and stretching exercises are beneficial to people with insomnia. Similarly, subjects who participated in moderate aerobic sessions reported decreased sleep onset, fewer waking episodes during the night, longer sleep duration, more sleep efficiency, and less overall anxiety.

Other Health Benefits of Physical Activity

In addition to helping you sleep better, regular exercise also provides the following benefits.

  • Improved Endurance: Certain aerobic activities can increase your heart and breathing rates, which is important for healthy cardiovascular, respiratory, and circulatory function. Endurance exercises include running or brisk walking, swimming, and cycling.
  • Stronger Bones and Muscles: Weightlifting and other strength-building exercises can increase your muscle mass. For older adults, physical activity also keeps bones and joints in good shape. This can counteract the loss of bone density, which naturally occurs with age, and decrease the risk of a hip fracture during a fall.
  • Increased Balance and Flexibility: Balancing exercises like tai chi make it easier for you to walk on uneven surfaces and reduce your risk of falling and injuring yourself. Yoga and other stretching exercises help your body remain limber.
  • Weight Management: Exercising allows you to burn the calories you consume from eating and drinking. The right amount of exercise depends on your body type, since some people require more physical activity to burn calories. However, 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five times per week is recommended for most people.
  • Reduced Health Risks: Regular exercise can decrease your risk of a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. These include cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Physical activity can also reduce your risk of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
  • Longer Lifespan: People who exercise for roughly 150 minutes per week are 33% more likely to outlive those who don’t exercise. Keep in mind that you don’t need to overdo it on physical activity in order to be healthy. Even small bursts of moderate to vigorous exercise can benefit your overall health.

When Should You Exercise?

The timing of your workout is crucial to sleep. Aerobic workouts in the early morning have been shown to improve sleep quality to a greater extent than the same workouts in the afternoon or evening. Exercising in the morning has also been linked to more time spent in slow-wave sleep. A daytime walk lasting 10 minutes or longer can also improve your sleep that night.

A good rule-of-thumb is to avoid strenuous exercise within three hours of your scheduled bedtime. Working out late in the day can raise your body temperature, which in turn may impact sleep onset and how well you sleep. Some studies have even concluded that high-intensity workouts within an hour of bedtime can negatively affect sleep time and sleep efficiency.

Yoga and other stretching exercises may be more suitable evening exercises, as they promote feelings of relaxation and can improve sleep quality. Alternatively, you can alleviate physical tension before bed using progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.  


Friday, November 5, 2021

The Connection Between Sleep and Weight


We need sleep for many reasons such as repairing the body, keeping the immune system strong, and enabling mental clarity and focus. Additionally, a good night’s sleep and the hormones it controls in our bodies can go a long way towards aiding weight loss.


When we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t just get cranky. The hormones that control our cravings and help us feel satisfied after eating are thrown out of whack making us more likely to crave unhealthy foods and indulge in mindless snacking. Feeling cranky and hangry is a recipe for disaster.

We’re taking a look at several key hormones that play a role in sleep and weight loss so we can take control of our energy levels, hunger levels, and moods.


The two hormones that are responsible for our feelings of hunger and satiety can be strongly influenced by how much or how little sleep we are getting.

Ghrelin AKA the hunger hormone gives the brain a signal that we’re hungry and ready to eat. Leptin is the hormone that lets us know when we’ve had enough to eat and puts the brakes on our hunger.

Not getting a recommended seven hours of solid sleep per night has been shown to increase ghrelin and decrease leptin. One bad night can make us feel hungrier, have more cravings (especially for sweets and processed foods carbs), and are more likely to indulge in overeating.


Along with throwing off our hunger hormones, studies have shown that just one night short of sleep can increase our levels of cortisol AKA the stress hormone. Excess cortisol has been linked to increased appetite and weight gain. If continued, chronic lack of sleep and excess cortisol can cause the body to hold onto fat (especially around the belly), and ultimately increase the risk of obesity. Studies have shown that taking Omega 3s can reduce cortisol spikes and support balanced hormones and overall health.


Not only can lack of sleep increase our likelihood of eating sweets and refined carbs, but it also impairs our ability to handle these carbs and sugars properly.

Insulin is the hormone that helps move glucose (sugar) into our cells in order to feed our muscles and be used as energy. Inadequate sleep impairs this process and can cause insulin resistance leaving glucose in the bloodstream and stored as fat instead of being used for energy.


Many of us naturally feel the urge to have a bowel movement in the morning but have you ever wondered why? While we sleep, the liver is breaking down toxins and excess hormones to be eliminated. At the same time, the colon is busy forming solid waste so all these items have an easy exit out the body. When we wake up in the morning (or soon after), our body is ready to release that waste.

If we don’t get enough regular sleep, the elimination process can suffer leading quickly to constipation. Constipation is one of the main ways the weight loss process is held up.

While quality sleep is not the only factor that influences our weight and well-being, it plays a very important role in both. If you are working on your weight, we encourage you to pay close attention to your sleep cycle, try to make time for a full night’s sleep, and utilize some sleep tips such as avoiding blue lights from a tablet or phone before bed, writing a to-do list, and making sure your bedroom is a sanctuary left only for sleep.