Sure, exercising is healthy for your body — but did you know that it’s nourishing for your mind as well?
By Leah Hinnefeld
I don’t think many people would argue that a well-designed rider fitness program will make a more physically stable rider. But did you know the habit of fitness will also create a more emotionally stable rider? It’s true! Not only can an Athletic Rider get the emotional benefit of the “runner’s high” that results from the post-exercise release of endorphins, but a fitness habit can also fight mood swings, anxiety-and even mild to moderate depression. Of course anyone suffering from depression needs to consult with his or her physician and should never substitute fitness for prescribed medication.
How does exercise create emotional stability?
In addition to the multiple physical benefits of exercise, it releases the “feel good” chemicals already present in the body. Along with the release of endorphins, exercise also boosts many of the same neurotransmitters that are boosted from many popular anti-depressant medications. Additionally, exercise reduces certain immune system chemicals that can cause depression to worsen. Raising body temperature, which happens naturally with even moderate exercise may also have a calming effect that lasts after the workout is finished.
Exercise is a natural stress reliever-even though you may feel physical stress (OK, sometimes frustration when learning to master the burpee) and is a major confidence builder (especially when you nail that burpee for the first time!). Just remember to turn any frustration that you feel into fascination to reduce the stress even further.
What’s even better is that exercise can become a welcome distraction that literally gives your mind a break from the cycle of negative thoughts that can eventually lead to anxiety, anger, stress or depression. If you workout with friends or join a fitness accountability group, you get the benefit of social interaction-and that alone can improve the mood of even the most remote of loners-particularly when surrounded by like minded (read: horse loving) people.
What kind of exercise works best?
Simply put, anything that gets you moving! Even just parking your car farther from the store entrance or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can create the beginnings of a mood change. I would recommend choosing an exercise or fitness program that you enjoy. Chances are no matter how good it might be for you, if you don’t dig it, you probably won’t do it. This is especially true when you are in the habit-creating phase of fitness as opposed to the habit-maintaining phase.
Being physically unstable is not just a fitness concern but also a safety concern when it comes to riding horses. The same can be said when it comes to emotional stability. Lack of emotional fitness has no place when educating a horse. It is unfair to the horse and potentially unsafe for both the horse and the handler. When it comes to creating an emotionally stable horse owner, there is no question that your horse will thank you for your investment in rider fitness.
Are you still unsure if a daily commitment to fitness can bring you out of the end of summer funk? Then come check out the Athletic Rider Fit Club. It’s fun and better yet, it’s FREE!
Leah Hinnefeld is a lifelong equestrian who spent over a decade studying hoof health and metabolism in horses before turning her attention to rider fitness. Leah is a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Fitness and offers Virtual Fitness Training for riders and horse lovers. You can learn more about how to get fit to ride at http://theathleticrider.