This series will share how trauma, depression, and anxiety fueled a quest for legacy in fitness and nutrition. Follow along each week as I post the rough draft version of my autobiography due out in 2018.
The Top 10 Reasons Exercise Fights Depression and Anxiety
1. Exercise Boosts Self-Esteem- The most important reason to exercise is self-efficacy. Feelings of burden and inadequacy are what bring me down the fastest, which inspires me to push forward and harder with each workout. Mina Samuels in Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives wrote, “Over the years that followed my “discovery” of running, my self-confidence grew, and feeding off the accomplishments I achieved in sports — setting new personal bests, winning a little local race, surviving the setbacks of injuries and marathons gone wrong — I discovered a capacity within myself that I never knew I had. I wasn’t just physically stronger than I expected, I thought of myself as a different person, as someone with more potential, broader horizons, bigger possibilities. I saw that I could push myself and take risks, not just in sports, but elsewhere, too. The competition in sports, as in life, was not with someone else, it was with myself. To “compete” was to discover my own potential to do better, to hold my own self to a higher standard, to expect more of myself — and deliver.”(1)
2. Exercise Reduces stress- Each and every workout pushes me further than the one before. Resistance training reduces stress by boosting serotonin and lowering cortisol, the stress hormone. Working out with others will also lower stress by building a support system around you, eliminating the feelings of solitude. “According to a recent ADAA online poll, some 14 percent of people make use of regular exercise to cope with stress. Others reported talking to friends or family (18 percent); sleeping (17 percent); watching movies or TV (14 percent), as well as eating (14 percent) and listening to music (13 percent). While all of these are well-known coping techniques, exercise may be the one most recommended by health care professionals.“(2)
3. Exercise Improves sleep- Throughout college, anxiety destroyed my sleep patterns. Tossing and turning until 2–3 am nightly affected performance in class and prevented me from reaching my goals in a timely manner. Since graduation in 2012, I added a melatonin supplement to my daily routine and increased the intensity of exercise which has made a huge difference in getting the quality of sleep. “exercise significantly improves the sleep of people with chronic insomnia. The only study that looked at the effects of a single exercise session found that a bout of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., walking) reduced the time it took to fall asleep and increased the length of sleep of people with chronic insomnia compared to a night in which they did not exercise.”(3)
4. Exercise Improves muscle tone and strength- Progress over time and reaching fitness goals drastically improves my confidence, eliminating the depressing and anxious thoughts speeding through my mind and heart. “It has been shown that many factors mediate the hypertrophic process and that mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress all can play a role in exercise-induced muscle growth.“(4)
5. Exercise Reduces body fat- Through a combination of diet and exercise, a positive body image can greatly improve feelings of self-efficacy. “Resistance exercises strengthen and tone the muscles while aerobic exercises condition your cardiovascular system and flexibility exercises increase your range of motion. Additionally, all types of exercise burn extra calories which, in turn, burns body fat. When combined with a healthy diet, you can burn more fat than you would with diet or exercise alone.”(5)
6. Exercise strengthens heart and lowers blood pressure- Having high blood pressure logically raises stress and anxiety, but because of exercise, I will prevent those feelings and a premature death from heart disease. “Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — by an average of 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). That’s as good as some blood pressure medications. For some people, getting some exercise is enough to reduce the need for blood pressure medication.”(6)
7. Exercise increases energy- Just as the downward spiral is continued without exercise, the opposite is true when I have a great routine and motivation to exercise. The more exercise in my life, the more energy I have to put into the success of my business and personal life. “In a study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in 2008, University of Georgia researchers found that inactive folks who normally complained of fatigue could increase energy by 20% while decreasing fatigue by as much as 65% by simply participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.”(7)
8. Exercise wards off anxiety and depression- I implement the higher intensity exercise into my fitness routine to take a break from the stress of life for an hour or so. I never used to practice self-care and take “me time” until recently, knowing that in order to achieve my business and personal goals I must feel deserving of that time set aside for me. “I ultimately chose a version of self-treatment via exercise and nutrition because of what I learned while I completed my Exercise Science degree in 2012. There were bountiful benefits of exercise for diseases that Americans face beyond mental disorders, including heart disease and diabetes.”(8) And paired with the help of a mental health professional and cognitive behavioral therapy, I am progressing faster than expected (8).
9. Exercise builds stronger bones- Resistance training places stress on bones, bending them and strengthening them without breaking. Red blood cells are formed in the marrow of our bones increasing the importance of strong, healthy bones. After exercise becomes routine, the body functions better over time and hormones level out to improve mood. ”Well, according to the Mechanostat Theory (Frost, 1987), a bone senses mechanical loading (called strain) and adapts its structure (called architecture) in response. Bones that are subjected to higher loadings than they are typically accustomed to adapt and strengthen, while bone that is not subjected to lower loads, such as during disuse, becomes weaker (Rubin et al. 2001).” (9)
10. Exercise helps us look better, feel better- Losing 15 pounds of unhealthy weight got others asking “How did you make a change?”. Walking the walk, and talking the talk helped buld my business which in turn gave me the confidence I needed to commit to a full time lifestyle change. “People who engaged in even a small amount of exercise reported better mental health than others who did none. Another study, from the American College of Sports Medicine, indicated that six weeks of bicycle riding or weight training eased stress and irritability in women who had received an anxiety disorder diagnosis.” (10)
If we’ve met or you follow me on social media, you undoubtedly know how far I have come with my fitness career. However, if we are meeting for the first time via this book, let me catch you up to where we are today. I own and operate Fit Life Champions, a private fitness and yoga studio in Denver, Co. We specialize in training women 25–40 with a history of trauma that want to become stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally online or in-person. From youth athletes to the aging population, I have enjoyed working with a variety of clients but I am most passionate about making a difference with our specific niche.
We have built a strong team of experienced trainers that execute small group training classes, yoga, and one on one personal training for all types of people looking to decrease stress, feel better, and lose 15–20 pounds on average. View this quick video to learn more about me!
My story begins long before I graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in exercise science. My childhood leading up to high school graduation in Littleton, CO were fairly normal and my family experienced a great life thanks to the hard work of my father, Don. Originally from Montana, my family moved to Virginia when I was nine years old where I earned the nickname “Smiley” from my sports teammates, and then finally to Colorado before my seventh grade year in 1992. Like most, middle school in Colorado was rough for me. I was bullied and picked on because of my size and quirky and honest personality