Train your way to Relaxation

It is winter, often referred to as the season of snuggling up in bed to stay warm, eating chocolate and a range of other munchies, and not exercising because “it’s cold out there”’. Work, life, and general laziness get in the way of daily exercise. All I’m hearing are excuses!

Exercise has a range of benefits; losing weight, keeping our minds and bodies healthy, even boosting our immune systems! If you still need extra motivation to head back to the gym or brave the cold and go for a run, exercise can also save your sanity, especially when exams roll around.

New research from Princeton University has found that exercise actually rewires our brains to be more resilient to stress and anxiety. Exercise helps the brain to adapt to the stressful and physically taxing environment, damping the effects of stress and anxiety.

In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that the brains of mice who were allowed to exercise freely behaved differently to those of mice who weren’t. The neurons in the brains of the exercising mice shut off stimulation in the region of the brain that regulates anxiety – the ventral hippocampus.

“Understanding how the brain regulates anxious behaviour gives us potential clues about helping people with anxiety disorders. It also tells us something about how the brain modifies itself to respond optimally to its own environment,” said Elizabeth Gould, a professor of Psychology at Princeton University and lead researcher of the study.

We all experience stress, and dealing with pressure becomes an increasingly important part of our lives as we leave blissful childhood behind. We try to relax by doing stuff we enjoy, like watching TV, having a drink with mates, or just chilling out listening to the iPod, but don’t forget that exercise is one of the best stress-busters out there, even if it does involve braving the Canberra cold.