Everything we do physically is first modelled in the brain which, ultimately, controls the body. So really there is no training the body without also training the mind. New studies are now adding greater weight to the mind/body connection by revealing the complex biofeedback loop through which exercise helps the mind get tougher and the mind helps the body remain healthier.
To truly unpack this it’s important to highlight that unless we are asleep or cocooned in a jar packed with cotton balls we are under stress. Life, work, unexpected problems and the sheer number of decisions we have to make each day conspire to generate stress. The body’s response to stress is the production of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Everyone of our body’s cells contains a region called telomere. It is made up of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome and the telomere’s role is to protect the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. Telomeres play a critical role in cell division and as the cells divide they get shorter. Short telomeres are linked to a range of human diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease as well as age-related problems.
The body has a natural defense that slows down and in some cases reverses the natural aging process. This is a ribonucleoprotein called telomerase and its role is to replenish and preserve the length of telomeres keeping the cells young and fighting off old age. When we are stressed our body produces cortisol to help us deal with the situation we are facing. However, if cortisol levels remain elevated in the bloodstream for long periods of time they affect the immune system and suppress the body’s release of telomerase. This then has a direct effect on the telomeres which shorten as our cells divide and we not only age but also suffer from a weakened immune system.
Dealing With Stress
Because there is no such thing as a stress-free condition the next best thing is to teach our body to deal better with stress. This is where exercise comes in. Because exercise itself is a stress-inducing factor that naturally produces elevated levels of cortisol in our bloodstream, it teaches our body to deal with the stress hormone quickly.
In effect, regular exercise, inoculates us against stress. There is more however. Elevated levels of cortisol that remain in the bloodstream have recently been held responsible for causing cognitive decline and depression as well as stress. By teaching our body to deal with elevated cortisol levels successfully we are also reducing the possibility that we will get depressed or that we shall experience declining mental abilities.
The benefits of exercise however do not end there. Beyond the kind of exercise that gets rid of tense, we work to redefine the limits of our physical capabilities. That requires mental focus. In order to push our body to move faster or do more push ups or perform extra sets so we can complete a Darebee workout at Level III, for instance, we have to get past the small voice in our heads that says “I am tired. Stop.” The focus we achieve when we get to that stage and the internal mind games we play become part of a broader framework that allows us to become more disciplined and capable of greater focus.
Researchers have noted that since “…there is no real division between mind and body because of networks of communication that exist between the brain and neurological, endocrine and immune systems” what happens to one affects the other.
If our mind is lax, unfocused, incapable of ordering our thoughts and prioritizing our actions our body is similarly unfocused and undisciplined, incapable of performing at peak. By the same token when our bodies perform like finely-tuned machines that are controlled by us, our minds are healthier and we feel happiest.
When it comes to developing a strategy for better health, fighting the ravages of aging and remaining mentally tough and happy, the recipe seems remarkably simple:
- Exercise regularly
- Test your limits frequently
- Vary your training to make it interesting
- Workout your motivation and understand why you do things
- Become engaged in what you do, focus on understanding how your body works
Darebee Workouts That Help
Practically every Darebee workout can help you here. However, if you are suffering from stress and are looking for some stress-busting routines you could check out:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Targeting the mind/body connection in stress: Researchers combine genetic testing and brain imaging to determine vulnerability to PTSD." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2016.