Okay, did you think I was talking about a two-minute quickie? Not exactly… But this two minute wonder will definitely contribute to a sexier, happier, healthier you.
Something Cassandra Carr said on Facebook this week made me think of this – she was struggling to keep from stress eating, and turned to her FB friends for support to avoid it. I shared my two-minute solution with her and decided I should share it with you, as well.
Basically, this is an effective, easy and quick response to reduce any symptoms or experience related to stress and anxiety, whatever the source.
All you do is move, for two straight minutes, in any activity or motion that gets your heart rate up into your target zone. That’s all! Could be anything – jumping rope (with or without an actual rope), burpees, grapevines, yoga frogs, jazz squares, (these last two are my personal faves), standing still and punching your arms, whatever bumps your pulse up into the zone.
I’m here to tell you it works miracles – and whether you wanted to know or not, I’m here to tell you how it works and why. In a nutshell, getting the heart rate into the zone triggers a hormone that shuts down our stress response.
It turns out our experience of “stress” is simply our body’s archaic response to prepare us to fight or flee from whatever is stressing us. Not so useful, most of the time, in resolving the stressor. But just like our body has an “on” switch for the cortisol/adrenal system that ramps us up, it has switches to turn the system off. One of these is (stay with me here…) ANP, or atrial natriuretic peptide. Produced by a muscle in the heart, it “directly tempers the body’s stress response,” and it has been shown to increase in production as the heart rate increases during exercise.
Here are some other things this two minute wonder can do:
– Focus. I have very mild ADD. This means I often have trouble prioritizing and staying focused on things I’ve gotten started – and if I’m feeling pressured (which is likely, if I forgot to keep going on a deadline project), stress builds, and I can’t think. These were the moments in my former day job when I’d shut my office door, and my colleagues knew I was in there doing yoga frogs and jazz squares. It worked every time.
– Headaches. Not always, but most of the time, if I catch a headache early and put in my two minutes, I can head it off at the pass. It’s always worth a try.
– Motivation. By now you know I do a cardio/strengthening workout nearly every day. Some mornings it’s hard to make myself get started, but if I can convince myself I’m “only” going to put in my two minutes and then see what happens, often I can keep going.
– Depression. Basically, when our body’s moving, it increases production of dopamine and all those other feel-good neurotransmitters. When it’s not moving, production slows down and we feel depressed. Two minutes all by itself might not make much of a dent over the long haul – but the more often we do it, the more our body continues to increase production, leading to an upward spiral in which we feel better and become more motivated to pump our heart rate up more often. It goes without saying that not moving sends the spiral in the opposite direction.
– Memory and Learning. Overall brain health, in a nutshell. We’ll feel more alert, retain new information better, improve our ability to think, and use our marvelous minds more effectively.
– Staying Sexy. You knew I’d get around to it – even two minutes can make us feel better; over time it’ll help us look better, which makes us feel better – which is bound to improve our sexy quotient and our sex life.
All this information is available in great detail in a marvelous little book about our brains, from which the quoted material above is taken. Spark, by John Ratey, talks about the benefit to our brain from just staying active, and the positive impact on anxiety, stress, depression, ADD symptoms, addiction, and women’s health. I highly recommend it.
Have fun, and Stay Sexy!