I totally subscribe to the notion that exercise is a ‘miracle cure’ or, more accurately, a miracle preventative. It’s well documented and widely reported that the NHS would save millions of pounds annually if we all just got off our wobbly bottoms for a saunter more often (and if we PUT DOWN THAT NUTELLA SANDWICH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STEP AWAY FROM THE REFINED CARBS, but that’s a different story). I love the way exercise makes me feel – maybe not at the time or immediately afterwards, but within half an hour there’s a real, physical warmth, along with a sprinkling of smugness, that tells me I’ll sleep well tonight. And god knows a good night’s sleep does wonders for one’s state of mind.
One of the big draws for Girls, and Boys, that ‘do’ is the sense of wellbeing that exercise brings. Levels of ‘happy chemicals’ like serotonin rise and a sort of non-awkward post-coital glow envelopes you. Who doesn’t love feeling good? There’s a hedonist in us all, it’s just that some of us get out kicks in our trainers rather than under the sheets or through a hypodermic needle. Each to their own though, of course. Here, I will make my confession. I have another love. One that pulls my attention away from sporting endeavours by tempting me with feel-good factors that even Mr Grey’s Red Room could only fantasise about. The name of my mistress? Laughter.
Often we get so caught up in looking after our physical selves, that we forget to look after our minds, our mental health. I’ve come to the realisation that in order to top up my glass, which is already very much half-full I hasten to add, I need a good belly laugh. No amount of exercise releases in me the waves of happy that laughing to the point of tears does.
Of course, I am in no way qualified to talk about this with any authority – this post is based purely on my personal experience – but I have taken an active decision to factor wellness of the mind into my day-to-day health and wellbeing regime. Every week I play touch rugby, I cycle to work every day, I swim, I swing a kettle-bell around, I watch what I eat… And I go to a comedy gig, take an improv class or rehearse sketches with my improviser friends – all things I absolutely adore doing and all things that guarantee hilarity ensues.
Given I work in a corporate environment, joviality doesn’t emanate from the grey walls, and having to maintain a professional and frankly serious demeanour just doesn’t sit easily with me. It’s tiring. So, in the same way that I exercise to negate the effects of being desk-bound all day, I embrace all things comedy in the hope that I won’t become a dour, corporate drone and that I won’t develop some sort of cabin fever. The release that laughing provides is just as important to me as the benefits I get from exercise.
So, whilst you’re out pounding the pavement, enjoy the benefits of the cardio, but also remember to be kind to your mind.