“My sport is my medicine” / “Mein Sport ist meine Medizin”

A few days ago a colleague said to me, “you always look so happy, keep taking those drugs!”

I know he was trying to make a joke, so I replied “my sport is my medicine!”

Afterwards I thought about this short conversation a bit more.  I have written about the link between mental wellbeing and being physical active.  I also wrote about the link between weightlifing and emotional wellbeing.

I compete in powerlifting and train 4 times a week. On my rest days, I enjoy walking, jogging and a bit of gardening, anything that gets me out into the fresh air.

I think that my competitive sport and being physical active enables me to manage the other aspects of my life – my hectic personal life, my professional as well as my scholarly work, as described in the blog My Powerlifting Journey.  Thanks to my sport I can completely switch off for a few hours a week, always feeling energized afterwards.

I have setbacks in my life, just like everybody else, and with my sport I found a way of dealing with them.

Vor ein paar Tagen sagte ein Kollege zu mir: “Du siehst immer so glücklich aus, nimm weiter diese Drogen!”

Ich weiß, dass er versucht hat, einen Witz zu machen, also antwortete ich “mein Sport ist meine Medizin!”

Danach dachte ich ein wenig über diese kurze Unterhaltung nach. Ich habe über den Zusammenhang zwischen geistigem Wohlbefinden und körperlicher Aktivität geschrieben. Ich habe auch über den Zusammenhang zwischen Gewichtheben und emotionalem Wohlbefinden geschrieben.

Mein Sport is Powerlifting und trainiere 4 Mal pro Woche. An meinen Ruhetagen genieße ich Spaziergänge, Joggen und ein wenig Gartenarbeit, alles, was mich an die frische Luft bringt.

Ich denke, dass mein Sport und meine körperliche Aktivität es mir ermöglichen, die anderen Aspekte meines Lebens zu bewältigen – mein hektisches Privatleben, meine professionelle wie auch meine akademische Arbeit, wie im Blog Meine Powerlifting-Reise beschrieben. Dank meines Sports kann ich für ein paar Stunden in der Woche komplett abschalten und fühle mich danach immer wieder energiegeladen.

Ich habe Rückschläge in meinem Leben, genau wie alle anderen Menschen, und mit meinem Sport habe ich einen Weg gefunden, mit ihnen umzugehen.

 

 

 

Health and Wellbeing: Active Ageing for Older Adults in Ireland

Evidence from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

TILDA (The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing)  researches the impact on the health and well-being of Ireland’s adult population aged 54 years and over and maps changes that have occurred since the first wave of TILDA data collection in 2010. Potent factors which influence health and well-being are volunteering, caring, financial transfers, health insurance coverage, health care utilisation, health screening, diet, medication use and prophylaxis such as vaccination uptake.

Key Findings

Older adults in Ireland contribute to and benefit from their extended family and the communities in which they live.

  • Within the last two years, one quarter of adults in Ireland aged 54 years and over with living parents assisted their parent(s) with basic personal care while 43% provided help with other activities such as household chores, errands, shopping, and transportation. Half of older adults also provided financial help to their parent(s).
  • The majority of children remain geographically close to their parents: Two thirds of adults aged 54 years and over have children either living with them or in the same county.
  • Older adults in Ireland who have children are more likely to provide financial assistance to their children (48%) than receive financial help from them (3%).
  •  Half (47%) of adults aged 54 to 64 years and 65 to 74 years (51%) provide regular childcare for their grandchildren for an average of 36 hours per month. Quality of life is higher in those who care regularly for their grandchildren.
  • More than half (53%) of older adults in Ireland volunteered at some time during the previous year with 17% doing so at least once per week. Retired adults and those with higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to do so. Frequent volunteering is associated with better quality of life and fewer depressive  symptoms.
  •  Sixty percent of the older population take part in active and social leisure activities at least once per week, while 47% are involved in formal organisations, such as sports or social clubs. Social participation is associated with better quality of life and fewer depressive symptoms, however levels of participation decrease with age.

 

Weightlifting and the Positive Effects on Emotional Wellbeing

Since I started with powerlifting about two and a half years ago I noticed the positive effect the sport has on my mood. There is this calmness I feel after a good workout as I mentioned in a previous blog (My Powerlifting Journey).

Other powerlifters have also described the relaxation aspect of this sport and the reduction of anger, the emotional wellbeing. I agree with them. When I am preparing for a big lift there is this intense concentration with one single purpose. This is a quiet and meditative moment, nothing else matters but lifting the weight.

Now research finds that resistance training is useful in warding off depression and mental health problems. A study published in the JAMA Psychiatry international journal indicates that strength training or weight lifting has positive effects on mental health.
This large-scale study found that resistance training was comparable in effect to frontline treatments such as antidepressant and behavioural therapies. The review, comprising 1,877 participants in total, also found that strength training or weightlifting “is free from the negative side-effects and high costs of many medications and therapies”, according to Brett R Gordon of the Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department at University of Limerick.
The study found that depressive symptoms among participants taking part in the training fell regardless of whether they were healthy or had an illness, or whether they actually built up their physical strength during the research.
The positive effects of resistance exercise training on participants’ mental health did not increase the more sessions they took part in and researchers noted that further research is needed to “explore the optimal resistance exercise training routine” for dealing with depression.

 

The Yogi masters were right – breathing exercises can sharpen your mind

New research explains link between breath-focused meditation and brain health

It has long been claimed by Yogis and Buddhists that meditation and ancient breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, strengthen our ability to focus on tasks. A new study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin explains for the first time the neurophysiological link between breathing and attention.

Breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing practices have numerous known cognitive benefits, including increased ability to focus, decreased mind wandering, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, decreased emotional reactivity, along with many others. To date, however, no direct neurophysiological link between respiration and cognition has been suggested.

The research shows for the first time that breathing – a key element of meditation and mindfulness practices – directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused, and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, like a brain fertiliser. The way we breathe, in other words, directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.

The study, carried out by researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity, found that participants who focused well while undertaking a task that demanded a lot of attention had greater synchronisation between their breathing patterns and their attention, than those who had poor focus. The authors believe that it may be possible to use breath-control practices to stabilise attention and boost brain health.

Michael Melnychuk, PhD candidate at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity, and lead author of the study, explained: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. In our study we looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is an all-purpose action system in the brain. When we are stressed we produce too much noradrenaline and we can’t focus. When we feel sluggish, we produce too little and again, we can’t focus. There is a sweet spot of noradrenaline in which our emotions, thinking and memory are much clearer.”

“This study has shown that as you breathe in locus coeruleus activity is increasing slightly, and as you breathe out it decreases. Put simply this means that our attention is influenced by our breath and that it rises and falls with the cycle of respiration. It is possible that by focusing on and regulating your breathing you can optimise your attention level and likewise, by focusing on your attention level, your breathing becomes more synchronised.”

The research provides deeper scientific understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms which underlie ancient meditation practices. The findings were recently published in a paper entitled ‘Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama’ in the journal Psychophysiology. Further research could help with the development of non-pharmacological therapies for people with attention compromised conditions such as ADHD and traumatic brain injury and in supporting cognition in older people.

There are traditionally two types of breath-focused practices — those that emphasise focus on breathing (mindfulness), and those that require breathing to be controlled (deep breathing practices such as pranayama). In cases when a person’s attention is compromised, practices which emphasise concentration and focus, such as mindfulness, where the individual focuses on feeling the sensations of respiration but make no effort to control them, could possibly be most beneficial. In cases where a person’s level of arousal is the cause of poor attention, for example drowsiness while driving, a pounding heart during an exam, or during a panic attack, it should be possible to alter the level of arousal in the body by controlling breathing. Both of these techniques have been shown to be effective in both the short and the long term.

Ian Robertson, Co-Director of the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity and Principal Investigator of the study added: “Yogis and Buddhist practitioners have long considered the breath an especially suitable object for meditation. It is believed that by observing the breath, and regulating it in precise ways—a practice known as pranayama—changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator are realised. Our research finds that there is evidence to support the view that there is a strong connection between breath-centred practices and a steadiness of mind.”

“Our findings could have particular implications for research into brain ageing. Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long term meditators. More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia and mindfulness meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks. Our research offers one possible reason for this – using our breath to control one of the brain’s natural chemical messengers, noradrenaline, which in the right ‘dose’ helps the brain grow new connections between cells. This study provides one more reason for everyone to boost the health of their brain using a whole range of activities ranging from aerobic exercise to mindfulness meditation.”

Reference:   Melnychuk, M.C., Dockree, P.M, O’Connell, R.G,  Murphy, P.R, Balsters, J.H,  Robertson, I.H. (2018). Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama, Psychophysiology,  https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13091

Source: Trinity News