Exercise: The Best Medicine?

I know we usually reserve that honour for laughter, but really, exercise kicks laughter right out of the field – and then invites it back in with that glorious post-workout endorphin high. However, as I’ve been reminded, there is a certain minimum “threshold dose” for exercise to be effective.

There were some months last year when I spent as much time in hospital as I did at home, and when I was finally home to stay, the black dog had its fangs locked onto my ankle. My poor little mind/brain/body matrix had been through hell last year, and I’d put on a LOT of weight. I was also carrying an ankle injury which made it painful to walk any distance. It’s only been in the last month that I’ve started exercising again.

My local YMCA offers personal training at $30 for 30 minutes, which is pretty awesome. I started going twice a week before Christmas. Then came the expected Christmas break. I was very happy that I enjoyed food during the Christmas-New Year week but still managed to lose some weight! However, the only exercise I did during that week and the next was walking.

You know what? Walking just doesn’t cut it. At least, not for me. I’m still grossly Β unfit – I can’t jog for 20 minutes straight! – but walking doesn’t seem to (a) be vigorous enough to improve my cardiovascular fitness, or (b) give me an endorphin rush. Unfortunately, because I was focussing on my diet, I didn’t quite realize that my fitness was slipping. Let me tell you, Monday’s session with the PT was not fun this week!!! Yesterday was much better: we did some boxing training, which I’ve never done before. Turns out I like taking a swing at things. This may interest those who theorize that depression is a symptom of unexpressed or repressed anger …

One thing I’ve learnt, journeying with the black dog, is that you just have to start where you are and go from there. I’ve been going out jog/walking this week – jog 60 paces, walk Β 60 paces. My husband reminds me that’s how I started, way back in the day when I began training for my first half marathon. Funny how we forget those things.

Anyway, there you have it: exercise = good; more exercise = better; but like all good medicines, don’t forget to read the warning labels and never exceed the recommended dose!

14 Comments

Filed under Out, Up

14 responses to “Exercise: The Best Medicine?

  1. Great advice! I’m with you on the starting running from scratch. I already had to do it once after a major knee injury (half-marathon to 1 minute run/1 minute walk is painful!). But that’s where I am once again. I agree: any exercise is nice, but it’s the really vigorous ones that really gives you that endorphin high.
    Maybe we should follow a running plan together! I have tons of schedules in my old running books. πŸ™‚

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  2. oh walking does it for me but its gotta be a real walk. more than a hour . 16 kms, 20kms and Im on top of the world.
    goodluck in your fitness journey.

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  3. Ah, this is right in line with my sense that I need to be getting back into shape, even if by little tiny fits and spurts.

    I feel a little odd asking this, but I have a question buzzing ’round my brain:
    What does an endorphin rush really feel like?
    I’ve heard you feel jubilant, “on top of the world”, but people rarely seem to have a very good viscerally oriented description of it. Is it all just emotional?
    Or is there are sort of body-high component too?
    Even with large amounts of exercise, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that feeling and I’m curious.

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    • Hi! Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you πŸ™‚ Hmmm, let me think. I experience a post-exercise endorophin rush all though my body, even parts that might be tired or hurting; they all feel “good”. I also feel it in my brain/mind, as (a) a lifting of spirits (b) a clarity of thought (c) a mild but very real euphoric pleasure. I’ve found the best way to get an endorphin rush is to do intense exercise for at least or about 30 minutes (after a suitable warm-up, of course). By “intense” I mean that your heartrate is elevated to approximately 80% of the recommended maximum for your age, which is measured in beats per minute. The maximum for your age is (220 – your age ) beats per minute. So if, for example, you’re 30 years old, your ‘maximum’ would be 170, and 80% of that is 136, so you’d be looking at raising your heart rate to about 136 beats per minute on average for around 30 minutes. The term ‘maximum’ here is not an absolute maximum – it’s not as though a 30 year old whose heart beats at over 170 bpm will necessarily have a corony!!! It’s mainly used to determine heart rates for various purposes, like the calculation we’ve done here. Generally people train at either 65-75% of max HR or 75-85%, depending on their goals.
      Sorry – I’ve rambled on! But I hope this is helpful.
      I think the key point for you is that perhaps endorphin rushes are more closely linked to the intensity of exercise, rather than its duration.
      Of course, I’ll send this message, google “endorphin rush heart rate” and learn that everything I’ve typed here is wrong πŸ˜‰ All I can say is – this is what I’ve found to be true!
      XX

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      • Naw, don’t worry, I like your rambles; they are very informative! πŸ˜€

        Sort of like a bigger version of the enjoyment of stretching in the morning?
        I’ve heard a lot of people really feel good when doing their first morning stretch, and every once in a while I find those to be quite enjoyable myself. πŸ™‚

        Hm… I’ll try the heart rate thing. I think if that’s the mechanism, it’s possible though that I just can’t feel them.
        I think that because if it was likely to happen to me it should have happened a few years ago, either when I was training to, and then did, hike a mountain.0
        1700 meters elevation, and I was about 50 feet below the summit when I had to stop because there was too much ice and the last 20 feet are all climbing, where as I’m more of a hiker. My arms are weak but my legs are strong.
        My heart rate was crazy most of the way, and we’d usually go in 20-30 minute bursts. (at the end it was like hike for 15, rest for 15 Heh)
        For someone mostly out of shape it was quite intense. Throughout I didn’t get any euphoria, or even ‘feel good’ in my body for it.
        I mostly just felt tired and sore the whole way, and even more tired and sore each time we stopped (except for my asthma, which was a large part of the need for stops. Breathing gets hard) but I did still feel excited because I had always wanted to actually hike a proper mountain. (When I’m a little more in shape I have at least two others I’d like to hike)
        I felt accomplished too, which did make me happy, but it was a brain thing, not a body thing; the views were also breath taking, it’s amazing just to look down over the landscape from that high up.

        Maybe I worked for too long and it needs to be something shorter… but even if I can’t get them, I appreciate your explaining. That’s probably the most concise (and also helpful) explanation I’ve had for endorphin rushes.”
        I’ll give is a concerted effort to paying attention to heart rate, and keep it brief enough that my body can also relax after. πŸ˜€

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      • Sounds good! I think you’re right – perhaps the mountain challenge was perhaps too long – but who knows? It may be that you simply don’t get them. I think the relaxing after thing is pretty important too πŸ™‚
        I should add again that my explanation before was based only on my experiences – not on scientific studies πŸ˜‰ Not that I’m discounting my own experience, but it’s possible not everyone experiences things the way I do. (Really?!)
        Go forth and seek the rush! XX

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  4. eddieredvine

    I totally get it! I used to power-lift before I got my appendix out. It was my way of coping with anxiety and stress. Since my recent health problems have prevented me from lifting anything minutely heavy, I have been trying to find a substitute exercise – yoga, walking around shopping centres… but nothing is vigorous enough to get my blood pumping to the point of usefulness.

    I bought a tiny 4kg kettlebell – this kind of works… but no where near as much.

    Eddie x

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    • Yes, Eddie, it’s a real bugger when injury gets in the way of exercise, isn’t it? I feel for you! Still, take it easy and be gentle on yourself as you find that next perfect activity : -) [That sounds terribly condescending. When I type that I’m speaking to myself as much as you! Because I tend to go at things hard and have to be careful not to, in case I hurt myself!]
      XX

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  5. I have always been a big advocate to exercise and I love this! It’s great that you’re incorporating exercise back into your life. For me, I started a more rigorous exercise routine when I decided that my anti-depressants weren’t as helpful as I wanted them to be. 5 years later and there is still nothing that makes me feel better than a good sweat πŸ™‚

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