Exercise can strengthen more than muscles. You can build up confidence, creativity and resilience while you’re working on your core. FiiT ambassador and author, Adrienne Herbert, who’s mum to a ten-year-old son, Jude, shows how to strengthen both mind and body.
“I use the word movement not exercise intentionally,” says Adrienne. “People have lots of ideas attached to exercise, such as flashbacks to PE and cross-country, or just going to the gym. But it’s simply moving which helps to shift your state of mind. Especially if you’re feeling flat in energy and mood. Actually, moving our bodies in different ways impacts everything from how we feel to our hormones, energy levels – all of it.
The science backs this up. Caroline Williams, author of Move! The New Science of Body Over Mind, wrote in The New Scientist about how movement directly impacts our minds. It’s less about doing more of it (phew!), it’s more about what kind.
“The way we move profoundly influences how our minds operate,” says Caroline. “This means we can see our body as a tool to change the way we think and feel.” She explains that the latest research shows this is no time to be sitting around. Well, that’s good. As mums, we all know there’s not much chance of that.
Here are five ways to strengthen both mind and body:
5 moves to suit your mood
Walk to kick-start your creativity
We can think more clearly when we go for a walk – and we’re not talking power walking. A relaxed stroll will do. Easy-going exercise reduces activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This part of the brain organises our ideas to focus on what’s worked before in our experience. So it’s a brake on those amazing thinking out-of-the-box, lightbulb moments. Walking slows down PFC processing, so creativity has more of a chance to show up. Those bright ideas which might solve today’s problem have a chance to break through as you soak up the air. Get your coat!
Head in the direction of forward-thinking
Adrienne says: “Running and even walking can count as a great daily movement because when your body is moving forwards the message you’re sending to yourself is that you’re progressing. There’s so much uncertainty in life, I like that feeling of progression – of moving towards something.”
The science backs this up: Psychology studies have found that when we physically move forwards, it influences the direction of our thoughts. We’re more likely to think about the future and less likely to dwell on the past. Literally, it’s forward-thinking!
Move anytime, anywhere for empowerment
“What are high heels?” says Adrienne? “I don’t remember but I used to wear them! For now, heel raises will help strengthen, sculpt and tone the lower body. Anytime, anywhere, no excuses!” In The Virtual Meet-Up she shows us how to squat right too. “We’re not talking a regimen here – it’s about micro improvement. Reclaim that time for yourself. To empower yourself. You cannot give to others what you don’t have. Time on you is never wasted.”
Raise your confidence with heavy lifting
“Strength training can be an incredible way to build confidence,” says Adrienne. “When we start to lift heavy weights we prove we can do things we didn’t think we could. Also, it’s easy to track your progress – from you starting weight to, at 12 weeks later, you can lift this much more. The same goes for reps. Lifting heavy things, including kids, improves your posture so you’re strong and standing tall.
“Here, my take on the brain-body link is that you’re affirming to yourself, I’m getting stronger. I can lift this heavy thing and I can lift myself.”
Hit the mat to build resilience
“With static positions, we learn to endure,” says Adrienne. “Think about how you can get into a difficult yoga pose and keep holding it for five breaths. With this, we’re learning how to endure an uncomfortable feeling. I’ve found I can take this into different areas of life, like, if I’m having a difficult conversation. So it helps to improve relationships.”
Too exhausted to barely move?
Remember your mum telling you, ‘stop slouching’? She had a point! Caroline Williams suggests we at least stand up straight to build a strong posture and core. “Years of psychological studies have linked an upright stance to feeling good, while slouching sends a message to the brain that you are exhausted and defeated.”
Even if you are, at least if you straighten up then you’re sending your mind a different message.
Gi’s exercise attitude: It’s all about the feels:
Giovanna agrees that moves affect her mood. “I no longer view fitness as a way of punishing my body, or something to do in order to be thinner. I’ve discovered the joy of it. I still don’t know if I love running while I’m doing it. But I do love the feeling that comes after.”
Take part in Adrienne’s Stronger Body, Stronger Mind movement at The Virtual Meetup right here:
For more on Gi’s attitude to exercise, see her book Happy Mum, Happy Baby
Move! The New Science of Body Over Mind by Caroline Williams