In a world dominated by media, social and otherwise, training is one of the few moments where we can feel all in. Whether we’re chasing a new squat PR, looking at shedding seconds off our 5k time, or simply just letting off steam after a day at work, exercise has the power to help us forget about everything else, just for that moment.
Beyond the research that highlights training's impact on our physical health, it's the change to our mental wellbeing which is even more profound. Research shows that exercise can improve cognitive function, lower stress and help alleviate depression. It does this by changing brain chemistry, aiding our sleep, and increasing our sense of self.
Touching on the impact it has on stress, a German study done by Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in Germany highlighted just that. They divided students into two groups at the beginning of the semester and instructed half to run twice a week for 20 weeks. At the end of the 20 weeks, which coincided with a particularly stressful time for the students — exams — the researchers had the students wear heart-rate monitors to measure their heart-rate variability. We touched on HRV in our August Playbook, but simply put, a higher HRV indicates a person’s ability to manage stress better. The students who were in the running control group displayed far higher HRV than those who didn’t. This meant that they could manage stress a lot better, at a time when things were stressful—in this case, exam time.
Our ability to manage stress better has never been so important. In a world with so much uncertainty and unrest, training can help us restore a balance within ourselves, and our mind. Tools such as meditation and mindful breathing can also help us improve our heart rate variability. We recommend reading Ryan Willms' blog "Into The Well" for all things mindfulness and meditation.
Another way that training impacts our wellbeing is through the release of “feel-good” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Researchers in Germany in 1975 found the link between running and the release of endorphins—the name derives from “endogenous morphine,” meaning internally produced morphine. Although it was coined the “runners high” this was most likely due to the surge of long-distance running in the 70’s and research shows that you can stimulate the release of these chemicals just through 20 minutes of intense training.
Research shows that you don't need to push yourself to failure everyday to elicit a change—being consistent is just as important. In the current climate—where motivation to get to the gym is low—we can't forget to train. Whether that's simply going for a morning run, doing a quick conditioning workout, or even just a long walk, performed consistently, they will all have a positive impact to our mental health in the long run. We devised a quick 30 minute bodyweight workout in our Oct/Nov Playbook that should kickstart your training if you're currently in a slump.
In essence, it boils down to implementing good habits. In the best-selling book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg calls exercise a “keystone habit.” He defines a keystone habit as something you do that brings about positive change in other areas of your life. He says exercise can “change your sense of self and sense of what is possible.” This message epitomises what Torsa stands for as a brand—using fitness and exercise as a way of building a foundation for positive change in life—unlocking your creative ability and power of mindset to pursue greatness in your life.