A happy Thursday to you all, hope everyone is making the most of these good summer days, especially those in 4 season territory. I'm not going to waste your precious time with too much here today, but it's an important topic that I wanted to scratch the surface on. Go ahead, take a big exhale and enjoy it.
There’s a lot that can be said about the relief just picking up a heavy object and putting it back down, can provide. I mean think about how angry, frustrated, anxious, depressed and just plain old upset you get in the course of a day…OK don’t think about it too long, you’ll hurt yourself that way. Now, think about how good it feels to go and hit your pillow, or a punching bag, to relieve some of those feelings (FEELINGS). Resistance training (lifting weights) isn’t a far cry away from throwing a right hook at a bag of cotton. You tend to have to get a little aggressive when it gets relatively heavy, right?
Let’s get some basics out of the way, there are many kinds of stress, but what I’m talking about here is the type that wears you down and damn near kills you. There are also things likes stressors, things that cause you to go out of balance (good or bad) and eustress, which is basically good stress. Just as it is with anything, an extreme amount of any type of stress can cause health issues. Also, bad news, absurd amounts of exercise does not equal absurd amounts of results, stress relief in this case, but you know that already.
Most of us know that exercise of all types releases endorphins, endorphins equals a happier person, generally. I mean there’s research out there from both Harvard and Duke that says weight lifting is good for your mental health in terms of anxiety and depression, surely they have a clue, no? There was also a study, referenced in Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers, where rats, put in different situations, were stressed (shocked). The rats stressed in isolation with nothing to do, developed ulcers. No stress doesn’t cause ulcers directly, but yes it is a root cause. They also stressed 4 or 5 other rats and gave them an outlet of some sort (other rats to socialize with, something to scratch and chew on, etc.). Those rats either developed ulcers at a lower rate or not at all. Simply put, you need a place to ditch all that stress. I advocate for weight lifting, but most exercise will do the trick though.
The major problem people have with stress and dealing with stressors, is that most of us wait a full week to find that outlet, i.e. blow off some steam. Additionally, some of these end of the week methods and activities aren’t conducive to good health in the long run either. Now, if you choose an activity that you hate a.k.a. you hate lifting weights, it’s not going to help you avoid that ulcer and won’t let you relieve any of that stress because you’re not going to want to do it. If such is the case, I’d choose a different activity. Make sure your training level matches the level you’re at as well. Example, if you’re a novice in the exercise realm, Gerard Butler’s 300 workout might need to go on the back burner. I still maintain resistance training is king, but I’m a fan of finding modalities that you enjoy and complement one another. Don't forget, your food consumption can play a huge factor as well, but that's for another day.
Coming back to the importance of exercise and mental health, pick up something heavy and tell me that you don’t start to feel accomplished, even just a little. Want a power up on this? Give yourself a goal to achieve, a challenge. Things like, performing a chin-up (or chin-ups), deadlifting double bodyweight, placing first in a powerlifting meet, or anything really. Working towards that (and hitting it) will give you an extra mega boost in accomplishment. That accomplishment turns into more endorphins and thus a happier human. Feelings like this give you that belief that you can take on any challenge that’s out there. With that you will have a higher self-esteem, which generally leads to better mental health. I wish I could sit here and tell you that weight lifting could solve all of the world’s problems, it can’t, but it can certainly help solve the problems in everyone’s world.
Hopefully post makes sense and makes you want to pick up something heavy, just a bit more, for your mental health. Even if you think you’re already physically in a good place, you have to take care of that brain too. I’ve also posted the link to the Harvard and Duke studies, if you want to read about the rat study, pick up Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers by Dr. Robert Sapolsky. Until next time, go out there and get after it.
Jarrod Dyke, CSCS