Tagged as: get moving

Your Mental Health + Fitness During a Pandemic.

“If exercise could be packed into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”

– Dr. Robert Butler, National Institute on Aging

Okay, so this is a HUGE topic…. I think it is the most important one I’ve ever had the opportunity to blog about.  I can tell you with confidence from personal experience, client testimonials and the steady flow of new research being done that fitness and exercise has a profound impact on mental health. 

The year 2020 has been a challenging year to say the least. If you’ve felt the effects of Covid-19 on your mental and physical health you’re not alone.

You may have seen your regular fitness fall through the cracks as the pandemic has forced many of us to work from home, or the unfortunate fact that your favourite group fitness studio or recreational team sports have come to a halt.  Many people have experienced weight gain because of this – the dreaded “Covid-15”! More on that later.. 

It’s safe to say that with the added stress and feelings of uneasiness around the pandemic plus the lack of regular exercise many people have been experiencing higher than normal rates of anxiety and depression. A recent poll done by the Angus Reid Institue a Canadian foundation for independent research,  states that 50% of Canadians reported worsening mental health since the pandemic began with many feeling worried (44%) and anxious (41%).  

Okay! Enough with the dreary stats already! Here’s a sunnier one:

A recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health states that walking for an hour or running for just 15 minutes can decrease your odds of becoming depressed by 26%.  We like this stat.

What Can Exercise do for Your Mental Health

  • Getting your heart rate up changes brain chemistry, increasing the availability of important anti-anxiety brain chemicals, including serotonin. 
  • Serotonin is just one of the brain chemicals responsible for your happiness. Exercise, especially getting the heart rate up can get these chemicals flowing intentionally! 
  • Exercise activates the frontal region of the brain and amygdala.  The frontal lobe of your brain is responsible for cognitive skills like problem solving, emotions and memory. In turn this helps control the amygdala, the part of the brain where emotions are processed.
  • Exercises increases your body’s production of endorphins and serotonin – see above. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain and stress. 
  • Exercise can offer a break from negative thoughts that feed drepression.  
  • Moving your body decreases muscle tension, lowering the body’s contribution to feeling anxious.
  • A consistent fitness regime can have you feeling accomplished and with an overall sense of well-being. 
  • Exercise can promote all kinds of changes in the brain. This includes neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm. 

The Canadian Association of Mental Health states that is very likely and even okay to feel worried and have some stress about the current situation.  Along with staying in touch with loved ones and seeking formal help from a professional if needed they highly recommend exercise, sleeping and eating well to support your mental health. 

Fitness as your Community

One of my favourite things I heard a client mention the other day was that when living in isolation due to the pandemic just the act of coming to the gym and saying hello to friendly familiar faces has been a game changer for her! Beyond fitness goals, community allows us to find a sense of belonging. It’s what can support us through some difficult moments

Training during a Pandemic

As mentioned above, the dreaded “Covid-15” has become a topic now too – the average weight gain during a quarantine is 3-15 lbs! Yikes! Thankfully Rep 1 Fitness is still operating with very safe Covid protocols in place.  If you need help with your fitness right now – or if you think a loved one needs some motivation (Hey a gift card for personal training is a fabulous holiday gift idea!) contact us

You already know that exercise is good for your body, but more and more research is telling us it can have a positive impact on mental health as well. Even the most modest amount of exercise has shown to improve emotions, sleep, stress levels and can even help you cope with depression and anxiety!

Let’s aim for 30 minutes of continual exercise on most days of the week.. Or better yet 150 minutes of moderate exercise (like a brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Vigorous would be more like running, playing singles tennis or doing high intensity interval training. If you’re not sure where to start let one of us at Rep 1 help you! 

Fitness is one great tool that will help carry us through these dark winter months during a pandemic! 

The Best Exercises for Seniors

At Rep 1 Fitness we’ve seen our older adult clients achieve amazing health and fitness results. Perhaps the word ‘amazing’ is downplaying their achievements and we should say ‘life changing’!  

Our senior clients can be seen working on single leg balance drills, learning to lift weights or even venturing into weekend cycling races. No matter what your level of fitness is, it’s without a doubt that exercise can positively impact one’s health.  Being physically active can improve your quality of life, mental and physical well-being and can even lead to living longer.  Participating in a safe fitness program contributes to well-being at every age but is essential for older adults.  The best exercise for seniors combines 4 pillars of fitness; strength, cardiovascular, mobility and balance. 

Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart disease and can even slow cognitive decline.  It can help control blood pressure, cholesterol, increase circulation and maintain a healthy body weight.  Also some studies reveal that regular exercise can help reduce the risk of some diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s up to a whopping 50%!  A smart and safe exercise program can help strengthen your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones helping fight against falls and osteoporosis.  

Best of all, exercise can help you stay strong, agile and energetic so you can continue the activities that bring you the most the joy in life! 

There is no ‘one best exercise’ but an exercise program that combines strength, cardiovascular and flexibility work is the most beneficial for seniors.  Try and find an exercise routine that not only includes those but one that you enjoy the most! This way exercising will be fun and you’ll be more likely to stick to the program long term. 

What if I’m a Total Beginner?

 If you’re new to fitness or haven’t been active in a while fear not! It’s never too late to start and reap the benefits of exercise.  First and foremost, before you begin any new exercise make sure you speak to your doctor.  Ensure any existing health conditions or medications are taken into account.  Ensure you start slowly and gradually build up.  If you have no idea where to start consider working with an experienced personal trainer. They have the knowledge and abilities to work safely with all age groups.  

If you’re new to fitness start with walking. Walking is one of the best exercises for seniors. You can start with 10-15 minutes several times a week. Work your way up to being able to walk comfortably for 30 minutes. This is a great cardiovascular foundation to have.  From there you can build upon your foundation! 

Starting a Fitness Program

The good thing is that greater health and fitness can be achieved by exercising just 30 minutes most days of the week. Let’s take a closer look at what your fitness program should like in detail below:

“Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity…” recommends the World Health Organization.

Moderate intensity exercise includes walking, swimming and even mowing the lawn. Moderate exercise should feel somewhat hard. Physical clues will be breaking a light sweat after 10 minutes, breathing quickens but you can still hold a normal conversation. 

Vigorous intensity exercise should feel very challenging. Your breathing would be rapid, you’d break a sweat after only a few minutes of exercise and you cannot carry a conversation comfortably. 

If you’re new to vigorous exercise be careful not to overexert yourself.  If you experience any pain, feel faint or dizzy be sure to stop and rest. Then gradually build up next time.  Again, working with a certified personal trainer can be very helpful as they know how to prescribe exercise intensity for your personal level. 

The Best Exercise for Seniors:

Strength Training

From there we suggest adding in a strength training regime.  Resistance training (strength training) is another best form of exercise for seniors as it helps maintain and improve your muscular strength and endurance.  This leads to better posture, stronger bones and even contributes to your quality of life! 

As we age our bodies naturally lose muscle mass.  Humans lose 3% – 5% of muscle mass every decade after the age of 30.  This can even speed up around the age of 65 if a person remains inactive.  It is crucial to stay active and strength train as you age to help slow this process down.  Sarcopenia (muscle loss with age) can come with symptoms like loss of stamina, muscle atrophy (muscle shrinking) and weakness.  With regular resistance training woman can expect to gain 0.5-1 lbs of muscle per month and men 1-2 lbs of muscle every month. These numbers can vary greatly depending on genetics, hormone levels, age, quality of sleep and diet.  Nonetheless – we can ensure you will see and feel a difference even in the first month of regular strength training!

Daily tasks like climbing stairs and carrying groceries for example all require muscular strength. With stronger muscles you can expect to do these things with ease and confidence. 

How Much and How Often?

We suggest strength training a minimum of two days per week.  Strength training includes exercises using free weights, resistance bands, weighted balls, cables and even your own bodyweight. Again, make sure you start gradually with a weight you can safely lift for 10-15 reps.   Movements that strengthen all the major muscle groups like squats, lunges, modified push ups and rows are the best exercises for seniors.  

Below are just some of our amazing older adults at Rep 1 Fitness showing us some of the best exercises for seniors:

  1. The Wall Push Up – this is a great place to start building your upper body strength. If you haven’t done a push up in a while start with your hands on the wall to decrease the difficulty. 
  2. The Squat – This lower body exercise is excellent for building strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.  If you’re smiling and laughing like our trainee in the video it means you’re doing it right! 
  3. The Lunge – Similar to the squat, this exercise builds the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes as well as challenges balance! 

Flexibility and Mobility

Our muscles and joints lose flexibility and range of motion gradually with age.  Mobility is important for performing exercises correctly as well keeping simple daily tasks easy.  Flexibility can be improved by static stretches, holding a stretch for up to 60 seconds. A joints range of motion can be improved with dynamic stretches and specific mobility drills.  

Below is one of our favourite stretches for the hips and lower back and you can do it lying down – bonus! 

Below is one of your favourite stretches for your hamstrings. Step 1, start by lying on your back, bend one leg in towards your chest and wrap a band or strap around the bottom of your foot. Step 2, slowly begin to straighten the leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the leg. Hold for 30-60 seconds. 

Step 1

Step 2

Better yet, assisted stretching therapy like the Fascial Stretch Therapy, a pain free, table-based technique can increase your flexibility.  The Fascial Stretch Therapy offered at Rep 1 can help improve flexibility and mobility, reduce muscle soreness and leave you feeling relaxed. 

Balance

The ability to balance better has to be one of the best outcomes of exercise for older adults. It is widely known that over 2 million older adults in North America fall each year resulting in injuries due to loss of balance.  The great thing about balance exercises is that they can be done almost anywhere.  Try standing and holding onto a railing, fence or sturdy chair for support, then slowly take one leg off the ground so that you’re balancing on one leg. Try and stay here for 10 seconds then take a break. Repeat 5 times on each leg. Once you feel comfortable try balancing on one leg without holding onto something. 

If you’re a seasoned fitness enthusiast or a complete beginner we encourage you to continue or start your fitness course no matter your age! You’ll be sure to see and feel the positive benefits of exercise on your mind and body. And who knows where your fitness venture will take you!