As the cooler temps invite cheer for the winter season, many of us fall off our exercise regimens under the pressure of other commitments, the disabling diseases and contagious colds that keep us in bedridden, and the stress associated with meeting extended family. Here’s why hitting the gym during this time of year can be beneficial to your mental and physical health.
Have a stressful meeting with your in-laws or feeling sluggish after your second plate of holiday dinner or your third glass of wine? Hit the gym! ‘Tis the season to open up your heart, and exercise does just that— regular exercise both strengthens your heart and reduces the pressure on your arteries, according to the Mayo Clinic. Plus, both weightlifting and cardio exercises have been proven to lower your blood pressure, in case long sessions on the treadmill or the spin bike aren’t your speed. But be warned, it takes around 1-3 months for regular cardio exercises to reduce your heart rate; meaning although you won’t necessarily reap the benefits this holiday season, you’ll in good shape for those inevitable New Year’s fitness resolutions.
Regular Exercise has been Shown to Maintain Immune Functioning
Did you know that your immune system not only keeps you healthy and helps you avoid sickness, but that it is also responsible for helping you maintain healthy responses to stress? This holiday season, take time for yourself to keep your mental and physical health in tip-top shape by getting in some good cardio exercises. Unlike your blood pressure, you’ll see almost immediate results with this aspect of your health. Even short-term programs have been proven to boost immunity— meaning for a few days to a few hours after you exercise, you’ll have more immunity to the inevitable illnesses and flu bugs that always seem to crop up around this time of year.
The short-term effects of exercise on your mental health are also worth noting: the “runner’s high” that many people experience while exercising is your body releasing endorphins as a result to the stimulus of exercise. This helps you manage your reaction to stress, diminish your anxiety, and has been shown to help you sleep better, which also helps keep you sharp for holiday parties and meetings with extended family. The levels of endorphins in your body are dependent on the type of exercise you perform, however— anaerobic exercise, or the exercise that deprives your body of oxygen, like sprinting or heavy weight training, tends to produce the feeling of the “runner’s high” more than a simple jog on the treadmill. Good news, though: regular exercise has been proven by Mayo Clinic to reduce anxiety over time.
So, put down that wine glass or shopping catalog, grab those old tennis shoes out of the closet, and find your nearest YMCA or local gym during the heat of the holiday season. The benefits for your physical and mental health during this stressful time of year will be worth it!