Fitness fights a foul mood

Mary Atkinson · Wednesday, February 12, 2014
With the rush of the holidays over and cold weather lingering, many people feel like they could curl up into a ball and hibernate until spring, but experts warn this is the last thing people should do.

Woman's Day published an article called "Your Winter Survival Guide" in which experts explain that shorter days and colder weather tend to make people more fatigued and feeling blue.

That's because the lack of light affects the brain's 'good mood' chemical, serotonin, causing depression in some people. Lack of light also causes changes in the circadian rhythm leading to fatigue because darkness increases the sleep hormone, melatonin, the article said.

Dr. Chris Schuster of Mercy Services West Liberty gives basic advice to help ward off the negative effects of winter.

"Eat well," he said, "Try to get eight hours of sleep each night and try to be active (exercise) for 30 minutes per day, five or more days per week. Start with something you can maintain every day (a five or ten minute walk), increase as you are able and find something you like doing! This can improve your sleep, your mood and how you feel in general."

The Woman's Day article suggests eating more protein during the day to stay mentally alert and healthy carbs towards the evening. The article also says that dark chocolate is a natural mood enhancer, so look for chocolate with 70 percent cocoa to get the strongest benefits.

If the temperature outside is keeping you from shedding the extra holiday weight, consider taking Yoga classes.

Nicole Rock's School of Dance offers Yoga classes Monday nights from 6-7 p.m., which are given by Amanda Elder who is a 200 hour certified Hatha Yoga Instructor and wellness coach.

Hatha Yoga is the most common form in the United States. Information from the University Health Library states that Hatha Yoga "emphasizes physical postures or exercises, known as asanas, with the goal of balancing the opposites in one's life. During the exercises, flexing is followed by extension, a rounded back is followed by an arched back, and physical exercises are followed by meditations."

"Hatha Yoga is a flowing class that systematically works the entire body stretching muscles and building strength while creating balance in the body," said Elder.

Nicole Rock adds that "Yoga makes you feel good! It's relaxing. It's energizing. It's strengthening. You feel better at the end of a session than before you began," she said. "If you are looking for ways to reduce stress, increase concentration, improve posture, balance, strength and flexibility you should make time to enjoy the benefits of a yoga class."

If yoga is not an option for some people then they could use the middle school's gym for exercising. The city of West Liberty rents and supervises the gym for the public's use on Sundays.

The Woman's Day article says even a quick jaunt around your office or house would suffice.

"When you increase your heart rate, your blood pressure goes up, so the effect is like getting a shot of adrenaline," Dr. Riva Rahl said in the article. He is the medical director for the Cooper Wellness Program and staff physician at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas.

Pastor DeLane Wright said spiritual wellness should not be overlooked either, especially after a stressful family holiday gathering.

"Spiritual fitness, very much like physical fitness, is seldom something that can be acquired after the critical need arises," he said, "Both necessitate intention and discipline. Both require methodical preparation."

Wright said people should learn from stressful experiences and consider adopting a spiritual regimen now "so that the next time a stressful situation presents itself you may be better prepared to cope. Spiritual strength does not come in tablet form. A quick-fix pill does not exist."

He also said that an important aspect to spiritual wellness involves a willingness to explore and come to terms with one's limitations.

"We can't fix every broken thing," he said. "We can't solve every complex problem. We may lack either the skills or the knowledge required to defuse a tense situation, or neutralize the difficult person. As the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in his untitled prayer, 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change/the courage to change the things I can/ And the wisdom to know the difference,' We may only, honestly know what these things are if we are willing to investigate them, which requires effort, diligence and courage."

"I would be offering bad advice were I to imply this is all that is required." Wright added, "It is a place to begin, however."

Finally, the Woman's Day article and the experts agree that adding extra fun in your life also is important this time of year because it can increase the hormone dopamine which is a mood enhancing chemical in your brain that helps ward off negative feelings and such things as overeating.

For more information on Yoga classes contact Nicole Rock’s School of Dance at 319-627-7177. People may also look up the school district's website for information on open gyms.
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