But how many of us actually stop and think about the effect eating whole foods and getting in some exercise really has when it comes to our mental and emotional health? Lucas Cullen did and if you keep reading, you'll see what an incredible difference it made for him and others.
For those who have been following me over the years – a big thank-you for that by the way - you might remember that once upon a time I worked in the field of special needs. First with littles at the Child Development Centre, then in classrooms with elementary school kids, and then later with some private clients in their homes. Even though many of the kids I worked with fell under the same diagnoses, no two were ever the same. Just like the typical learners, each child with special needs was also unique in the way they took in information, processed it, learned and progressed. There were two things however, that regardless where the child was at in his/her learning, always brought about good outcomes - diet, and exercise.
Quite a while back I remember reading something that said vigorous exercise was the most effective “medicine” for depression. Seems that statement had some merit. A paper published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry on the NIH (National Institute of Health) website had this to say, “Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression.3 These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain .....and the hippocampus, which plays an important part in memory formation as well as in mood and motivation.” It's nice to have the validation of a prestigious paper to back up when I share information, but it's really just redundant for anyone who's tried making healthy changes. Results speak volumes. And really, at the end of the day, results are really all that matter.
The patterns I saw in the classroom, were not unique just to children. Kids who showed up at school without breakfast had way more difficulty attending to the teacher and getting their work done. When the same children were allowed to eat a snack at their desk, the majority of wiggles and inattention went away. Similar can be said for adults who arrive on the job without breakfast. Whether your job is physical or mental, demands are being put on your body that require fuel to keep it functioning properly. Fatigue, headaches, irritability, being short with co-workers, having to read the same thing over and over again, forgetting something, or conversely doing it twice – are just a few symptoms that arise when the body is not properly nourished.
As referenced in the study, similar can be said in both age groups when it comes to exercise. The kids who just can't seem to sit or focus for any length of time, regardless whether they'd eaten or not, find it much easier to concentrate and get their work done after exercise. Any parent or teacher who's been locked inside with kids for any length of time can't wait for them to get outside and run around. Sudden bursts of movement – running, jumping, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, etc., - cause reactions in the body that break the cycle of stress you're experiencing at that moment, allowing the brain to calm down, relax and focus on the task at hand. And when things positively affect the way our brain works, things like depression, mood swings, and hormonal issues see a profound improvement as well. Just ask Lucas Cullen.
Lucas, a Kelowna local and former semi-pro hockey player turned ultra-marathon runner, has struggled a lot with depression. It was when he reached out to me a few months ago for nutritional coaching in preparation for his first 52km run this fall, that I heard his story. How he's been using running to beat back depression, overcome the struggles, and create strength in the areas of his life where it was lacking. Because of his success and passion for helping others, Lucas created Struggles Create Strength, to help others to also find strength in their struggles. It's amazing to see just how much a person can transform their life and take back control of their health, not just physically, but mentally as well. And to help as many people as possible, Lucas is running the 52km ultra-marathon next month hoping to raise $50,000 for mental health. Watch this short video on Lucas' story And read the stories of people he's helped and how you can support the movement at Struggle Creates Strength Please share with anyone you know who might be struggling.
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Kelowna Nutritionist STOP dieting, start living! Lose the Bloat, Melt your Belly, Love Your Life!! Last thing, last time, believe it! Sign up to receive my bi-weekly FIT Nutrition blog, and get started today.