At the Gym: Where to Get a Grip on Grief
Article by BATISTA GREMAUD
Grief occurs when you lose someone or something precious. No matter what it was, you usually wish you’d had more time with them or it, and that you’d been kinder or more appreciative. There has been a lot of research on physical exercise as a tool to overcome grief. Aside from the apparent health benefits of exercise in lowering mortality rate, preventing diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, and heart disease, exercise fights depression and stabilizes moods and behaviors. It’s known that exercise stimulates the release of healthy neurochemicals to the brain, such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, the hormones responsible for your happiness. These brain chemicals also relieve pain, ease stress, and assist people in dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Did you know you can overcome the challenges of grief from the perspective of physical strength? As a baby, you come into this world being weak. As time passes, you acquire strength and independence. Then, as you get older, your strength diminishes progressively; you lose your personal autonomy and physicality on your way to death. And so is the cycle of life. Strength, at any age beyond infancy, is essential to slow down the aging process and regain quality of life. If you are not consistently doing activities that increase your strength, you are losing muscle mass. Adult humans lose approximately 10 percent of muscle mass loss per decade of life. If your power was once 100 percent, as time goes on, it goes down to 80, 60, and finally, below 50 percent, which is very common. At this point, you become more responsive to your emotional state, and it dictates what you do. When tragedy happens and grief sets in, you will have little defense during your time of the terrible feelings grief brings. Of course, therapy, talking with someone, or taking a walk can help you out of that state. But the fact remains that you will be in a quicksand of tears more often, and for longer times when you don't work to increase your physical strength. The fastest and most efficient method to raise your strength is by participating in the systems of physical conditioning where your muscles are worked against an opposing force (for example, by lifting weights). The keywords here are “opposing force” and “lifting weights.” The gym provides an ideal stomping ground to safely increase strength because it offers various workout equipment that supports your body in ergonomic ways. When you go to a physical gym, it's possible that after a brief period (less than an hour) you can raise your strength in a single session by 15 percent. That 15 percent also strengthens your emotions. You may wonder if Pilates or yoga routines count as strength training. Many people lump Pilates, yoga, and strength training into the same “exercise bucket.” While the most strenuous styles of yoga (Hatha, Ashtanga, etc.), provide some strength-building benefits, they have limitations because they rely on your body’s weight alone. Although Pilates can give you excellent core conditioning, it does not typically focus on all the large muscle groups that you must work out for optimal strength. Gyms have invested millions of dollars in equipment that makes your workout comfortable and efficient. They provide a safe and healthy environment to thrive. If you are still using treadmills, simply taking a walk for exercise, or doing Yoga, you are overlooking the remarkable and accelerated benefits that strength training provides. Strength training is a stand-alone activity that offers unique benefits not found in other modalities. Some people who don't like to go to the gym, and often say, “I don't want to be a bodybuilder!” But consider that it is in the gym where you meet people in wheelchairs, people who have lost limbs, have conditions like lupus or epilepsy, or they are recovering from disease and surgeries. They are working out…they are gaining strength…and they are easing grief! And they are showing how your inner and outer strength is connected. The Buddha wrote, “To keep the body in good health is a duty; otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” Choosing to be happy is more than just saying, “I'm happy.” Wishing to be at peace requires being proactive and encompasses all areas of your life, starting from the inside out, with self-love. There is no love without self-love. There is no greater self-love than giving yourself the time and space to keep yourself strong physically, mentally, and emotionally. Be inspired. Start strength training today as an antidote to the ravages of past, present, and future experiences of grief.
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