Rest & Digest

How does gym remove stress – Rest & Digest

People visit the gym for various reasons. Weight loss, better posture, healthy lifestyle or even winning over the fair maiden. However there is one reason which nobody talks about, de-stress. It might be initially hard to believe that how come lifting weights or resistance training will de-stress. By the time you finish reading this rather detailed article, you shall judge for yourself if this might work for you.

Autonomic Nervous System – Sympathetic and Parasympathetic

Autonomic Nervous System takes care of background tasks which are not under our direct control. Breathing, heartbeat, digestion, reproduction, sleeping, etc are a few of the long list of such functions.

All body functions require energy resources. Certain amount of resources are reserved for the exclusive use of autonomic nervous system.

The catch here is that at a time only a fixed amount of resources can be consumed by autonomic nervous system. Consider this as a pipe of water though which only a finite amount of water can pass at one time.

Autonomic nervous system is further divided into Sympathetic nervous system more commonly known as the “Fight or Flight” mechanism and Para Sympathetic nervous system also known as “Rest & Digest”.

Before we study about both these in detail, the first detail that you should know is that Fight or Flight mechanism raises the alertness levels in the body and Rest & Digest brings that alertness levels down to bring the body back to equilibrium.

Effects of “Fight or Fight”

To understand this mechanism we have to go back 5 lakh years when human evolution going on. We took the safety and shelter of caves and men went out to hunt or forage for food. Both activities were full of danger. Hunting needed stamina, focus, speed and strength. That was provided by the Sympathetic nervous system either running behind the prey to catch or to run away from the danger of a predator. It provided a rush of adrenaline to push our body beyond the normal by elevating heartbeat, breathing and alertness by releasing a dose of emergency glucose to act as energy source. You can visualize the successful hunt and hunters returning back to caves with a bounty and pumped up happiness.

So whenever a modern human is faced with a situation or threat, our body goes into a heightened state of alertness. Waiting for an interview, chased by a dog, racing on a bike, road rage, mothers’ in law suggestions, EMI deadlines, social media, toxic persons, etc.

The only difference is that once out of the cave, humans used to be exposed to stress for a limited period till the time they came back to the caves while modern humans face a continuous barrage of stress which is chronic stress.

In short, “Fight or Flight” is in response to a stressful situation.

Role of “Rest & Digest”

Once the hunters came back with food, they came to the safety of caves back into the company of their women, children and pets. It became a time for relaxing the body and mind, a de stressing routine. While the kitchen was activated, the men folk might be gathering around chatting with each other or sipping on some wine or just lazing around. We can see the origins of all these modern activities in cave humans. Here is how the “Rest & Digest” mechanism works.

Rest & Digest is immediately supposed to kick in after the Fight or Flight phase is over, that is once the threat has passed.

  • Lowers the heart rate and slows down the pumping action of the heart.
  • Increases the rate of digestion so that food can be cleared from the stomach.
  • Relaxes the muscles of gut for smoother flow of food.
  • Evokes a feeling of sexual excitement so as to promote love, affection and procreation.
  • Promotes saliva production in the mouth to help better digestion.
  • Promotes mucus production in the nasal cavity to improve cleanup.

Rest and Digest brings your body back to equilibrium.

What is the best de-stress gym plan?

If you are able to lift 20 kgs on a bench press with 10 counts then if you choose your next weight as 25 kgs then you might reach 7 with ease and the last three require some effort and grunting.

These last 3-4 counts will push you to the limit where you will have to summon up all your strength to reach the count of 10. This last push gets you completely exhausted and muscles scream with the ache.

But then the short pause which you take to recover actually infuses the system with a de-stress shower. It is like pumping up relaxation fluid inside your body.

But the benefits do not end here.

Visit to a gym is a lifestyle change

If you think that just walking to a gym and working out for some time will give you instant benefits, you are wrong. Unless you make it a lifestyle change, it will be just on will power basis and that will power will eventually run out. Once you decide to hit the gym, you have to adjust your daily routine around that.

You need a good diet to backup all that muscle wear and tear repair. You need a good sleep so that the repair process gets sufficient time. Your food habits centered around carbs like dal, roti, chawal and samosa has to go away. Refined carbs have to be replaced with either protein or fat.

You cannot lift weights with food in your stomach. So you need to fix the meal times or skip one of the meal. If you do not wake up early, it might be time to start doing so.

Lastly do hire a gym trainer to see those final counts through.

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