Last year, my father made the decision to retire from his job after 37 years of service. I was very happy to hear he was retiring because I had a good idea of how physically and mentally demanding his job was. My happiness quickly turned to surprise when I heard that he was updating his resume shortly after his last day at work . As demanding as his job was, I wondered why he wanted to continue to work. Did performing manual labor for at least 8 hours a day bring him some degree of pleasure? As odd as that question may sound to people of my generation, science suggests that the answer is yes.
The benefits of engaging in physical activity on a regular basis include:
Reduced risk of developing a chronic disease (diabetes, hypertension, etc.)
The release of endorphins, which block pain signals to the brain and produce happy feelings
Lower tension levels
Elevated and stabilized mood
Exercise has even been shown to have comparable results to that of prescription medication in the treatment of individuals diagnosed with depression. Even with all this data, less than half of American adults perform 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (i.e. walking) per week. I believe the lack of physical activity is a major contributing factor to the 40 million American adults who have been diagnosed with anxiety related disorders. Personally, the period of my life that was filled with the most anxiety coincided with a lack of physical activity.
As I mentioned in the initial post on Elementaltampa.com when I completed my undergraduate program and entered the workforce, being physically active was not high on my priority list. I had earned a degree, I had obtained a job, but beyond that my life consisted of sitting on the couch watching TV or playing video games. I quickly became overweight and my self esteem rapidly deteriorated. I do not remember what specific event compelled me to attend my first martial arts class, but I know since then I have become much more proficient at dealing with anxiety. I truly believe developing a daily routine that includes a portion dedicated to physical activity has allowed me to excel both professionally and personally.
This post is meant to highlight the benefits being physically active can have on individuals dealing with anxiety and stress. It is NOT a post disparaging the use of prescription medication by individuals suffering from anxiety related disorders. I certainly understand and appreciate the need for these types of prescription medication. I am someone who at a young age received professional help to learn how to cope with stress. I did not to need medication but I know not everyone with issues similar to mine are as fortunate. Regardless if you are taking medication for anxiety related disorders or not, it is my belief that incorporating physical activity into your daily life will improve you physically and mentally.
If my Dad is reading this, you were right. Hard work does pay off, in more ways than you think.
This past Sunday was the first time in a long time that I would describe the weather here in Tampa as truly enjoyable. Temps were in the low 70s, humidity was essentially nonexistent, and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. The setting for the first Elemental Training Tampa (ETT) group class was almost too good to be true. I set up the mats while Shannon wrote out the day’s workout on the whiteboard. The post workout snacks were arranged on the table and the soundtrack for the class was pumping – I believe it was the 80’s cardio station (which ended up being pretty popular). We were visually prepared, but right before the class participants arrived a thought crept into my mind that made me wonder if I was mentally prepared. The thought was, “Can I do this?”
I have taught fitness classes in the past where I was frequently responsible for creating the exercise format for the class. What I had planned for Sunday was nothing I hadn’t done before, but in a way it was. In the past I was simply an instructor representing a larger entity, but on Sunday I was representing myself and my creation, ETT. If I was unable to provide an engaging workout and/or atmosphere, it would certainly hurt future interest and the word of mouth I was relying so heavily on would most likely be less than complimentary. The pressure that I created for myself was a little unnerving, but the feeling only lasted a moment, because I suddenly remembered something: diamonds are only made under constant pressure. Once I came to that realization, I essentially welcomed the feeling of pressure because I knew it would help motivate me to create and lead excellent group workouts. These feelings all took place over the span of 10-20 seconds, and the thought of, “Can I do this?” quickly changed to, “I am going to do this.”
Soon after my little mental epiphany, the class participants began to arrive. Before long I had eight individuals standing in a single-file line facing me waiting for instructions. An hour of class flew by in a blink of an eye. I’m sure I flubbed some words, spoke a little too quickly, and my voice definitely cracked like a 13-year old boy at least twice, but I knew that I had led a great workout. After the training session ended, everyone grabbed some healthy snacks and began chatting with each other about the class they just completed, other workouts they had performed, races they were going to take part in and other fitness related topics. When I saw that, I knew that ETT no longer existed only online. The fitness community that I had been hoping to create was coming to life right in front of me.
The feedback about the first ETT workout has been extremely positive and given me some good ideas for future ETT workouts. The next ETT group training session will be held on October 19th. Check out ETT on Facebook for more details. HIT IT!