Mindful Mama Mentor
~ HUNTER CLARKE-FIELDS ~

Move Your Body, Heal Your Mind – Jennifer Heisz [360]
August 2, 2022

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Do you struggle making time to exercise? As parents, exercising can seem daunting and exhausting. In this episode, I talk to Jennifer Heisz, author of Move the Body, Heal the Mind: Overcome Anxiety, Depression, and Dementia, and Improve Focus, Creativity, and Sleep about the importance of daily movement. We talk about how exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous or time consuming. Jennifer suggests ways even busy parents can make time for movement. 

Takeaways

  1. Moving is a kickstarter to mindfulness
  2. Physical inactivity contributes as much to dementia as genetics
  3. Contrary to popular belief, exercising later in the day does not disrupt our sleep, in fact it can reset our biological clocks

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About Our Guest

Jennifer J. Heisz, Ph.D., is an expert in brain health. She is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Brain Health and Aging in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University. She directs the NeuroFit lab, which has attracted over $1 million to support her research program on the effects of exercise for brain health. Dr. Heisz’s award-winning research examines the effects of physical activity on brain function to promote mental health and cognition in young adults, older adults, and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Her debut book called Move the Body, Heal the Mind examines the latest research on how exercise can help you overcome anxiety, depression, and dementia and improve focus, creativity, and sleep.

About Hunter Clarke-Fields

Hunter is the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, host of the Mindful Mama podcast and author of the bestselling book Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids. She helps parents bring more calm and peace into their daily lives. Hunter has over twenty years of experience in meditation practices and has taught mindfulness to thousands worldwide. She is the mother of two active daughters, who challenge her everyday to hone her craft!

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Transcript of this episode:

*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Hunter: I just told you this, but I wanna just let the listener know I’ve struggled to find someone to talk about exercise on the podcast, even though I know how good it is and like how VI, even in my own story, like how vital it is, For my own like mental health and wellbeing and all of those things.

But so I’m so excited to talk to you about your body, move your book, move the body, heal the mind, and you study the effects of physical activity on brain function. So you know what, first of all, like what got you into this, and then I’d really be interested to talk about a little bit about Some of the things that, we are in a sedentary culture.

And we, we think, oh, we’ll get some steps in or whatever, but like we need, anyway, this is a whole, let me just ask you a question. I’m like,

[00:01:04] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: I’m excited for this conversation too.

[00:01:11] Hunter: Yeah. So what you got, what got you interested in connecting exercise and the brain function? Sure. Yeah,

[00:01:18] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: It’s a bit of a personal story actually. I was studying graduate school. I was studying neuroscience and trying to figure out how the brain represents us as people who we are. And it.

In my late twenties and it became very clear to me that, something wasn’t quite right with my own mind. And I was struggling with some pretty severe anxiety and some intrusive thoughts that turned out to be like symptoms of O C, D. And so sorry, my dog is like having a conniption. Let me just get her.

She’s there she is. Cheerio. Hi Cheerio.

[00:02:00] Hunter: You don’t have to on the YouTube channel to see how cute do is here. She’s licking. Jennifer’s patient.

[00:02:08] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Who’s a dog. We can edit this one out, but she is pretty cute. No, I think we’re keeping it. . She was like, okay, what are you doing? Okay. Yeah, so it, it was at the time it was in my twenties and okay, baby, I’m gonna put you down.

I was I was having a pretty rough time in grad school and I went to the school physician and they recommended antidepressants, which I was pretty reluctant to take at the time. And A friend recommended their rusty old road bike, and much to my amazement, the movement, the bike ride soothes my mind.

And it really sparked a shift, not just in my personal life where, you know, prior to that point, I hadn’t really been active. I was never an athlete. And so from that point forward, I really shifted my personal life to include movement as my medicine in my daily life, but also a shift in my research. So from the fundamentals of neuroscience, to really understanding how exercise changes the brain.

And then from there I launched the neuro fit lab, where as you mentioned, we study the effects of exercise on the brain.

[00:03:26] Hunter: It’s so fascinating. I, that’s a, that whole piece about the exercise is a huge piece in my own story too. Like when I was in high school. I was, I had all this conflict with my father at home.

I was hanging out with kids who were, like doing drugs and partying. I was partying. And one of the things that kind of started to turn me around from this was. A friend started running and she was like, we were both like smoking cigarettes and lot stuff. And I was like, man, if she can do that, I can do that.

And so I started running and I started running and I wasn’t very good. I, I just did a little, I like run two blocks, Walka block run two blocks, walk back, and then, but it ended up the running ended up being this like precursor to a mindfulness practice for me, where it really just helped me to be.

Like stronger. Just, I just helped me to start to make those choices that were healthier for myself and my life and do different things than I would than like the, this sort of downward trajectory that a lot of my friends were going on. And. and was this like stabilizer and I still run , it’s like amazing how I call it getting my Yaya’s out.

Like for me, like that anxiety, like that energy of that, getting that out No offense to all Greek mothers out there.

Not that kinda. Yeah.

[00:05:03] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Yeah. I hear you. And actually, so I’m just getting back into running after the pandemic really took the wind out of my sail like literally and I had been sitting quite a lot. The gyms were closed here. I’m up in Canada and that. Was that affected me. So I kept running, but my, like the imbalances in my gate really got exaggerated and then I fell and got injured.

So I’m just getting back to running and I’m doing this run walk thing. And I actually really love it. I might just stick with that. So it’s really gradual really about just like moving and feeling the movement. one thing I love about exercise is it does, it’s like a catalyst for mindfulness.

Like you’re paying attention to your body. You’re paying attention to your breath. You’re in the moment, especially when you’re just getting back into it, it’s oh, all these sensations are interesting and it brings you out of your head and right into your body. And I just find that. It just, it really, for me it’s a catalyst, but the research also suggests that there’s a strong association between people who are more physically active and people who are more Mindful.

So they, they do really go hand in

[00:06:25] Hunter: hand. Yeah. I mean a lot of mindfulness is properception right. Like that sense of. Feeling in your body. And if we’re just sedentary, right. We’re and we’re just living out of our brains. That’s right. We’re not feeling into our body as much.

Like we’re not feeling of those sensations and things like that. Yeah. I would assume there’s a pretty strong link. That’s cool that the research has shown that you talk about, some of the things that. We have everything. Our life is like made for us to be like, just more comfortable on our societies, just telling us to be more and more comfortable and it used to it’s so interesting.

I think about exercise, even though it has so many benefits, which I’m sure you could tell us so many more, but that it used to be just part of life, right? Like it used to like in a way, I think that, My mindfulness in a way, like we, now we train our minds. And we know we should be training our bodies, but it used to be like that our, we just moved as part of life.

That was, we didn’t have to have like exercise that was separate. Is that one of the reasons that it’s. Just hard for people to exercise, just cuz we’re we, our survival mechanism is to conserve energy. Is this what’s going on with us,

[00:07:50] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: that’s it? Yeah. We’ve effectively engineered out movement from our day.

We have a car, we can drive to the grocery store and get our food. And the brain evolved at a, like a fundamentally different time when we had to expend a lot of energy to hunt and gather our food. And so you’re right. The the brain evolved to conserve energy when it didn’t have to use it for survival.

And today, that’s most of the time, right? We rarely have to move for survival purposes. And so the brain is designed to keep us lazy, keep us. Energy conservative. And so it goes out of its way to avoid expending energy. So it sees voluntary exercise nowadays as an extravagant expense.

And it will protest do you even have time? Do you have energy to exercise? You we’ve all heard this, this is a constant chatter in our head. When we were thinking about exercising, How do we get off the couch and out the door? And that’s a real thing. That’s that is the brain to blame.

So certainly not alone in that. And but there, fortunately there’s some things we can do to overcome that, to get past that inertia, the biological inertia that sort of built in, and they’re simple things like, first of all, just making a plan ahead of time. And this is, for obvious reasons, this works because it, you carve out the time to move and to have exercise in your life so that your calendar doesn’t fill up with other appointments.

But it also acts because when you detail out all the things that you’re going to do what are you gonna do when, where with whom and all the details are figured out ahead of time, you don’t need to make any decisions in the moment. And decisions like making decisions, drains are willpower.

It drains our like brain power so that when we try to, overcome that biological inertia, which requires logic and rationality, we have less to do it. So if you plan ahead, you save that brain power and it really, it makes it a little bit easier to start moving.

[00:10:10] Hunter: We had Lisa Feldman Barrett on who’s an expert in the brain and she talks about the body budget.

So yeah, that would be using that willpower would be using that body budget and then the body budget then goes to the exercise itself. Okay. So we wanna plan it ahead. Anything else

[00:10:30] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Yeah, that’s the fundamental let’s do that first, but then there’s ways that you can hack the brain to make exercising more enjoyable and more like the brain more willing to do it.

So a few things you can do. One is really a fun trick. It’s just to convince the brain that resources are plenty, or just remind the brain resources are plenty. It’s this this research is so funny. You take a sip of sugary drink and you swish it in your mouth and you don’t even have to drink it.

You could just spit it out. And this is enough, just, the presence of carbohydrates in your mouth is enough to convince. The lazy brain, that resources are plenty. And oh my gosh. It’s okay, let’s do this. And the exercise itself feels less effortful, especially at that beginning when it’s hardest.

wow. Which is super fun. That’s crazy. Yeah. I’m oh my gosh. Yeah. Yeah. So even like a stick of gum would work, put in a stick of gum, chew it up. free gum. The trick is sugar free. That, that it has to be real sugar that’s seems to be the research. Yeah, probably

[00:11:51] Hunter: I’m gonna be going buying bubble yum for Bubba bubble was just a health product

[00:11:57] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: for me now or, SW some kombucha in your mouth.

That’s probably gonna . Yeah. And other things if the sugar is not a thing even just listening to music and maybe when you’re working out, you prefer to listen to podcasts. So you could listen to music. Even before you’re working out to prime the brain, get it ready. And the reason why, if you’re listening to your favorite music, this releases dopamine, even just listening to music and this dopamine’s gonna stimulate the reward pathway, and it’s gonna start linking that rewarding feeling experience with exercise so that you are, you’re gonna be associating that with some feel good feelings.

[00:12:45] Hunter: Okay those are pretty easy. That’s not that hard. Schedule it ahead of time. Swish, some sugary drink or just take a sip, and then listen, listening to music. And there’s you talk about so many reasons. We jump to like the, how to , but there’s so many reasons why we should be doing this and why we should be prioritizing this.

Yeah. You talked about your own story with mental health but. There are a lot of re you talk about the, that physical in inactivity is a big risk factor for dementia, too. As well as other things. Can you tell us about some of the things like scare us, scare me a little

okay.

[00:13:32] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: The scary, I think the scariest thing is there are only three degrees of separation between sitting too much and dementia. But, yeah. And that seems like weird to think about and midlife. Is the time when we need to think about this most. Not later. And the reason is when we sit for long periods of time, it starves the brain of the vital nutrients.

It needs less oxygenated blood flow. This causes the body to go into hibernation mode. It starts damaging the blood vessels that feed the brain. The brain cells starve. Then they break down. This can lead to things like vascular dementia, which makes it hard for us to focus and concentrate, but also perform, decision, make decisions and perform many activities of the day.

And then eventually that could lead to Alzheimer’s disease where it really affects our memory. I that to me is the scariest and the thing that scares people the most is there’s no drug that’s going to cure. There’s no drug that cures dementia. This is it really is something that we need to get ahead of and research from my lab shows that.

Physical inactivity contributes to your dementia risk as much as your genetics oh wow. You could be born with a healthy set of genes, but if you are not active, you’re increasing your risk of getting dementia as much as if you were genetically predisposed, which, that’s in your hands, that’s controllable.

And so just by simply moving more. We can reduce our risk, which I think, we can spin it positive cuz that’s a really positive thing we can do. It’s scary, but we do have way more control over it than we think.

[00:15:30] Hunter: Yeah. I mean it’s an opportunity, right? I mean I’m seeing.

So many, it’s interesting. My, my uncle, my auntie Barbara, she was a very, actually, she’s a very sedentary person. She had an alcoholic, she died of dementia, but now his second wife is now dealing with dementia too. And I just feel so sad for him, but that whole idea of is scary for all of us.

And to have. Then opportunity to say to our family, to our children to get ahead of a problem that might be. Put in their laps. Like our health, I’m thinking of my neighbor who is doesn’t wanna exercise, but is a big people pleaser. This could be a good . Yeah.

[00:16:24] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: And I think a lot of people, they.

Leave themselves last, right? Yeah. So they see it as like a selfish thing. Oh, I don’t have, I gotta do all these things for everybody else in my life, and I think that we need to change that narrative because we can’t, we’re not our best selves when we’re not. Taking care of ourselves and we need to carve out that time for self care, for, to get the AYAs out or to get the stress out to feel good about ourselves in our own skin.

And then we can be an incredible support and help to everyone else in our life. So I think that, yeah, we need to rethink that, that this is an investment in our ability to give and care and be, the wonderful people we wanna.

[00:17:16] Hunter: Absolutely. Yes. Yes. I like to say that like self-care is not selfish.

It’s actually our responsibility, right? Yes. Yeah. It’s our responsibility to show up. It’s fascinating. How does exercise help? We both talked about right how exercise helps with an anxiety how does it help with anxiety what’s happening

[00:17:39] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: there? Yeah, so there, when we exercise, there’s a resiliency factor that’s released in the brain called neuro Y and this resiliency factor helps to calm.

Fear center called the amygdala. It’s the brain region. That’s like hypervigilant, constantly scanning the environment for threats, but also can be triggered by our thinking, and worries. And so this neuropeptide, Y can be released. By light to moderate activities. So which means you could be going for a brisk walk and that would be enough to increase neuropeptide.

Y one thing that’s really interesting is that neuropeptide Y seems to protect the brain from trauma. So when we look at people who have gone to war, for example, some of them will return. With post traumatic stress disorder, but some won’t and the ones who are protected are the ones who have higher levels of neuropeptide.

Y. and so we can build more of that resiliency factor with exercise, which I think is amazing. And then we don’t need to exercise vigorously for that. We can just exercise that light to moderate. Now, like most people with anxiety they have this anxiety sensitivity. And what does that mean? It means like a fear of fear itself.

So once you start. Noticing those symptoms of anxiety, like heart racing, difficulty breathing, difficulty thinking. Sometimes those can be like, oh my God, though, they can make you even more anxious. And so you could see how this can feed itself as a vicious cycle to leading to Escalation and panic attack, right?

. And so for individuals who are prone to this, most of them don’t like exercising. Most of them will avoid vigorous exercising. Like the plague, but the vigorous exercise, just even like little tidbits of it is what they need to help regulate that response to the anxiety. it’s it works like like exposure therapy.

So they’re afraid of those symptoms. So let’s just. Second, do your wellness walk for 10 minutes and then a burst at the end, just 10 seconds. Or as long as you can go as fast as you can go and feel your heart race, feel it difficult to breathe. And then. Notice it come back to baseline, notice it, come back and realize you’re safe, and then do that again and realize you’re safe.

And so in this safe space of exercise, we can learn that those symptoms are not as scary as we previously thought, and then they have less power over us. So it’s an interesting way. I have it in the book it’s called the Fearbuster. and it’s designed to take advantage of this, build up neuropeptide Y with the wellness walk and then a burst at the end to get that exposure to the symptoms that may be causing us more anxiety.

Wow. That’s fascinating.

[00:20:54] Hunter: That makes so much sense, right? Like you just. From a mindfulness perspective, like you’re like feeling the feelings in your body and, and then this also goes back to what Lisa Feldman, Barron teaches right about that we have sensations and then, there’s like a continuum, right?

Where we have sensations, where we have more energized kind of sensations and calmer sensations. And then we have positive affect and we have negative affect and you could grid that all out. And when. What you’re saying is if we have anxiety sensitivity, like it’s that those sensations trigger that fear in us, we don’t have any positive effect associated with that, but the exercise is a way to feel it and.

No you’re safe. Like you just said, and have that understand that this is a sensation in my body. This is just nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a sensation in my body.

[00:21:53] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Yeah, it’s reframing. And then you shift your quadrant. So you’re activated. But it’s no longer negative in the effect.

, it’s positive in effect. And so it’s still the same activation, but now you’re seeing it in a more positive light. So it’s like reframing the stress response. And this has been shown to be extremely powerful at impacting the effect that stress has on us. In and of itself is not bad.

Like it, it alerts us, it gets us ready, activated to help us deal with the situation at hand. The problem is how we view that stress. A lot of the time when we see it as negative or having an overly negative impact on our health research shows that’s when it’s most damaging to our health is when we have that negative.

Connotation or negative perception on it. So it’s not stress that’s good or bad. It’s our, our thinking that makes it that way.

[00:22:59] Hunter: That’s fascinating. And yeah, and that, that negative association leads to other negative, it’s like we’re in that sort of negative affect zone and can lead to other things like my kid is trying.

Doing this behavior to get me or to get back at me or whatever, like we’re starting, like we’re feeding into our kind of innate negativity bias. Cuz we know that when we have more stress, we yell more and we’re more reactive, but like it’s a probably like means, it’s like more of that negative associated stress rather than the positive associated stress of that physical.

Stress of running super fast on the street.

[00:23:43] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Yeah. And this is playing into the anxiety piece, right? So when stress is high and it’s negative, that amygdala, the fear center is on and it’s active. And so we’re not. We’re no longer responding to the situation at hand, we’re responding to our own vulnerability.

So that’s what happens. And then we’re not our best self, we’re angry, we’re defensive, we’re negative. We are viewing everything through this lens of vulnerability and that’s when it that’s when it really becomes destructive. And so we can get ahead of that. We can start. To heal that and to manage our reaction, to stress using exercise because exercise is, it is technically a stressor.

And so it, it does activate the stress system. But like I said, in this safe space that we control how long we go. We control how high it goes. It’s really is a way to Essentially like tone the stress system, like you’re flexing your stress muscle, and then that stress muscle grows stronger so that you can tolerate heavier stress loads without being so reactive.

And then you are quicker to recover less feelings of vulnerability and the ugliness of stress that. It all it brings out in us, we can stay calm and

[00:25:17] Hunter: more Mindful. This is so fascinating. I’m gonna have to share this with my husband. We he’s started like lifting weights and things like that.

Cause I started like doing. Weightlifting. I’m like really into body pump you.

[00:25:31] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: I love weightlifting love. This is like my favorite thing right now. Like

[00:25:35] Hunter: clean and press. Like I’m doing all these like badass, like weightlifting moves, which I think are super fun anyway, but he’s gotten into it. He likes this guy and you do funk Roberts, which I think is hilarious, but he’s doing this weightlifting and he’s cool.

It’s cool. Like he’s feeling better. He’s like all this stuff. Sometimes he has challenges with anxiety. And one of the things he really avoids is intense cardiovascular, anything that feels intense cardiovascularly where he goes, like he walks every day all the time. Yeah. And I’m like, honey you know what about and he’s starting to learn some benefits of like pushing to your edge cardiovascularly at least like maybe once a week or something.

But this sounds like that. Would help that, like what you’re talking about, that reframing of the stress response

[00:26:26] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: a hundred percent. And if he can even just add in a few sprints, even at the end of his walk, This is going to expose him to the, because he prob it sounds like he might have anxiety sensitivity where it’s like that, you know, that it’s, maybe he’s able to manage the symptoms until he feels them, and then it can get to him a bit more.

Yeah, the the quick bursts, it doesn’t have to be like a full out vigorous run. It can be just like, feeling your heart up and down and the resistance training will help with that too. Cause when you’re like, it’s it and it’s short. You’ll do a set. And by the end, your heart rate is elevated and you feel it, but you just drop the weights and it’s done.

And so I bet as he does this more and more, he’s gonna be able to transition that into the cardiovascular fitness because now he’s he knows. Oh, okay. My heart rate can be up and I’m still okay. It’s not scary.

[00:27:33] Hunter: Oh my God, this is so fascinating. I’m gonna have to play in this interview. This is so cool.

There’s also, you have some research. You talk about the research on exercising, cravings and addiction. So tell me about that. What’s going on there?

[00:27:48] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Yeah. I talked about dopamine as this stimulator, the neurochemical that stimulates the reward system and dopamine is the brain needs a certain amount of dopamine.

And it’s like a currency for the brain. It’s a reward currency where, the naturally rewarding things we need for survival. Are rewarded and reinforced through this system. So like thinking of food, sex, and exercise, they’re all rewarded through the dopamine system, but so are drugs of abuse and the, but they essentially hijack it and they create.

Dopamine levels to supernatural levels that the brain was never designed to deal with. And so what ends up happening is that there’s too much dopamine and this disrupts the brain’s balance and it goes in, it essentially locks down the reward system. The dopamine’s there, but it can’t bind to its receptor.

So it can’t stimulate this feelings of pleasure. This leads to tolerance with drugs. But it also leads to a lack of enjoyment for the simpler things in life, like food and sex and exercise. And so when someone is trying to maybe stop drinking or stop drugs, what happens is that sobriety starts slowly.

The reward system starts to open up again, and this is such a healing power, a self healing power of the brain, but exercise can. Speed that up. So it does take a long time. It will heal but it can take a long time and exercise helps to heal that speed, that healing process by repopulating the dopamine receptors, increasing dopamine naturally to the natural levels, but also making everything a little bit more sensitive, so it’s like opening it up faster. It’s just, it’s really powerful. And in the book I talk about. It should be a mandatory part of all treatment programs, like a structured supervised exercise program. And when we do it with friends and do it with a social group, one thing that’s really beneficial, there is for a lot of people struggling with like addictions they often have friends who feed into that addiction.

And when you stop. Let’s say you stop drinking or you stop using the drug. It’s almost like it’s difficult to be friends with the same friends and you have to create a whole new social circle. So the exercise friends that you make from like a run club or a weightlifting club, or, they can also provide you with the social support that.

Maybe missing from your life. Yeah it’s really a powerful and really beautiful way that exercise helps to heal the mind.

[00:30:47] Hunter: It’s so interesting. As you talk about that social piece, I think about parents, right? And a lot of parents who, you know, one of the big problems right now is isolation.

. Especially since the pandemic, but it has been for a long time because of just our nuclear family and the way we live and. Oftentimes there’s one person, probably you live this, right? Like you were a single parent, you said one person home with a child, maybe that, and you have to work and it’s.

And so that piece about finding a running club or walking club or whatever it is to exercise and get that social interaction at the same time is brilliant. For me at the start of the new year, It’s like freaking out, cuz I was too isolated from the pandemic and the high numbers that were happening here in the us of the COVID 19.

And so I STR made, I found a running partner, so I could go running and like at least make sure I see this, couple and. Maybe a couple times a week, be with another person that I can just like, there’s so many benefits in that way and also that person, like having someone else to exercise with just makes you go further and.

[00:32:09] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Love. Oh yeah. And it’s so much more fun too, right? Yeah. So much more fun. It can be a lot more fun. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The social benefit of exercise is just, it’s such a, it’s such a powerful thing, especially when we think about lacking motivation and this lack, this sort of lack of motivation, and this malaise can come from.

Symptoms of depression, even like mild symptoms of depression. And even though exercise is super beneficial for boosting our mood, that depression can act as a barrier in and of itself to prevent us from going. But this social pieces like accountability partner, this exercise buddy actually really does help help keep us motivated and.

[00:32:59] Hunter: okay. So let’s talk about sleep because I used to have trouble sleeping and man AF since like since I ran in my life, like I’ve just never have trouble, as long as I know that if I can get like a good workout that day I sleep. And I keep, I don’t have caffeine after 11, but anyway, ,

[00:33:23] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: I’m we I’m with you here.

exercise

[00:33:26] Hunter: and sleep. This is pretty, pretty strong, huge evidence for. The benefits there, right?

[00:33:34] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Yeah. Yeah. So exercise does some pretty awesome things to help promote sleep. So the first is it breaks down this cellular energy called ATP to produce adenosine and adenine, as it builds, it’s a natural sleep aid.

So when it gets so high, we just sleep like it’s just like natural sleep aid and it also. We can use exercise. If we use it consistently, we can use it to reset our biological clock. Cuz sometimes this can get outta whack, especially if like you’re up late one night and you, then you have to get up early with the kids.

For example, like it, it may be like your time zone shifting, but you’re actually just at home and it’s just a schedule shifting. And we can use exercise to. Realign that our brain time with the real time by either exercising at the same time every day, or if you need to shift it.

So if you’re finding you’re going to bed too early, you can exercise in the evening. If you’re needing to wake up earlier, you can, exercise in the morning or afternoon, and this will help reshift your circadian rhythm. Pretty awesome.

[00:34:48] Hunter: So that’s fascinating. Okay. So we, if we there’s like a kind of, what I’m hearing you say is there’s a, an after effect of the exercise, where you’re, you’ve up leveled your energy, and then there’s like an after low. Whereas if you wanna be going to sleep at 10 o’clock, you should not be exercising at seven o’clock. Like you wanna, that’s gonna keep you up later actually. No,

[00:35:10] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: That’s kinda a myth. Yeah.

Yeah, so exercising saying. It’ll help shift the clock a little bit later, but it won’t keep you awake. So if seven o’clock is your only time that you can exercise, do it because it won’t, it will likely not interfere with your sleep, unless it’s so vigorous that your heart is elevated just before you go to bed.

Oh and this, this can happen with anxiety too, if we’re having like anxious thoughts that like, cause our heart rate to elevate, that’s one of the reasons why it’s hard for us to fall asleep at night and the same goes with exercise. So if we’re vigorously exercising to the point that our heart’s elevated while we’re trying to go to bed, It’ll take us longer to fall asleep.

So yeah, so it actually, it’s okay to exercise in the evening if that’s, when you can fit it in. And I know a lot of people are like, oh, I don’t want it to disrupt my sleep, but it won’t, it’ll just it’ll help promote deeper sleep at night and it may shift it slightly, but it will help you sleep deeper at night.

It won’t disrupt it.

[00:36:22] Hunter: This is so cool. All right. Minimum viable dose. Let’s talk about what that is here. So yeah, you, the you’re listener, you might be here saying I’ve been having, I haven’t been, maybe I’ve been just like going for a walk once in a while. I haven’t really been exercising. I want to, what’s a minimum viable dose, Jennifer.

[00:36:43] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Okay. Every 30 minutes, stand up for two minute movement break. This is enough to increase, focus, creativity, to help restore blood flow to that prefrontal cortex that we need to be productive at work. Yeah. So if you’re, if you haven’t been moving much start there, huh. And just five minute. A five minute movement break we’ve shown helps reduce mind wandering.

Sometimes you’re like trying to focus on a meeting and you’re like, what’s for lunch, what’s for dinner, like or when’s that expectation. So five minutes of this can be like jumping jacks, high knees, but it doesn’t have to be vigorous. It could also be just stretching. And this helps to helps us to stay focused.

10 minute self-paced walk has been shown to boost creativity. Three 30 minute brisk walks like in a week. That’s not that much time we’ve shown in my lab reduces anxiety. That’s also the typical prescription tested for reducing depression and in some people that works better than antidepressant drugs.

That’s

[00:38:08] Hunter: amazing. Just three 30 minute walks a week, that’s it?

[00:38:11] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Yeah. We’re not talking about a lot. Amazing. Yeah, it is amazing. And people. So it turns out like we have these physical activity guidelines for physical health, but for mental health, it’s much less than that. And I think part of the reason is because we get the brain health benefits immediately after every single workout we do.

And that workout can be five minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes. Doesn’t have to be vigorous to get the benefits.

[00:38:43] Hunter: But I know a thing about you, which is that you have done some 70 point you’ve competed in two Ironman competitions. So are there now. Okay. Like I have a perception of an Ironman competition that.

Sounds is just exhausting in my brain. Is it but that is maybe you could tell us exactly how much a of a lot of exercise that is, but are there, is, are there more benefits to that much exercise that you get? Or is there a place where there it’s too much stress on the body?

Just curious, cause I know your person, you know that you’ve done these some, tell me

[00:39:31] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: about it. Okay. Yeah. I. I’ll preface this by saying, so my marriage had broken down. This is back in 2017 and I had never done triathlon before. And I was just gonna try a try like this is like the entry level triathlon, the whole thing you’re D you know, said and done in 90 minutes and it involves a swim, a bike and a run.

So try a try. That seems right. Easy. Okay. Or doable, let’s say do yeah. Yeah. You could train for that and probably achieve it. Yeah. And so that was, that’s where I started. And I amazed myself by winning the silver medal in my age group, which was like, whoa, mind blown. Cuz I had never won anything before a sporting event prior to that, but then it was.

It gave me a lot of confidence that I needed to leave that unhealthy marriage and start the next chapter of my life. And I just, that, that dedication to that sport became really a really important bridge into my new life. And so I started with the try, try it, built it built up, longer and longer races.

And then at some point I was like, Hey, this would be a cool personal story to add to my book. So I’ll talk about the research, but track the progress of this sport. The effects it’s having on my own brain throughout the course of the book. So it was supposed to, the book was supposed to end with my like heroic completion of the full Ironman , which is like the biggest of the races of all the

[00:41:13] Hunter: triathlon.

What is it? Let

[00:41:15] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: tell us. I know it in kilometers. I don’t know if I’ll have to do like it’s 3.8 kilometers swim. Chairs to

[00:41:28] Hunter: miles. you got the converter up. I need a converter here. Go. Here we go. Okay. Okay.

3.8 kilometer swim.

[00:41:41] Hunter: That’s 2.3 miles swim, 2.4 miles swim

[00:41:45] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: everyone outside in like a lake

We’ve got

[00:41:49] Hunter: everyone areas the understand this

[00:41:55] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: 80 bike ride. Oh God, that sounds like a lot. it was a lot that’s

[00:42:02] Hunter: 11 miles for 12 mile bike. Holy Schmully and

[00:42:06] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: then not done yet a full marathon.

[00:42:11] Hunter: Oh, so that’s 24.6 miles. I know I think so. I think it’s 24.6. Oh, my converter does not do miles. I

[00:42:23] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: think in a kilometers it’s 42.2 kilometers.

So anyway it. The whole thing. Yeah. I was supposed to do an official race, but that got canceled because of the pandemic. So my race was supposed to be August, 2020, but it got canceled. And so how was I gonna end this book? I’d almost written the whole thing I had this whole journey.

And so I planned my own iron man, my own solo iron man. And I did all of this on my own. With the support of my wonderful family and. Oh, my gosh. And it took the whole thing, took me 13 hours and 10 minutes to do, but yeah, I will tell you, aside from making it a really cool, dramatic ending to my book.

Yeah. Was it healthy for my body or mind? I don’t think so. I don’t think I would recommend that because it was too much, but most people are not doing that. That’s like the really, and will I do it again? Probably not. It didn’t make me feel that good. And so that gets back to the. the simple prescription of 30 minutes, three times a week.

That’s where a lot of the benefit can be gained. And so you don’t have to be doing these intensive races. There is something like those types of races. Are amazing because they can show you, they push you outside your comfort zone, like way outside your comfort zone and really teach you about resiliency and what you’re capable of.

And so I think the mental benefits are much stronger because now I feel like, oh, I can do anything. I honestly, I like have this, confidence and assuredness that I never had before. But in terms of health and sustainability of that type of training it wasn’t, it’s not for me.

It’s as a single mom who works full time there was a lot of sacrifices had to be made and it wasn’t, it did disrupt my sleep on those really long runs. And I think that can show you, there, there is a point of too much, but, and that’s also like stress, there is a point where there’s too much stress and we reach a breaking point, but before that it can still be healthy and challenge us.

And cause us to adapt and grow into the stronger version of ourselves that you know, that we’re seeking.

[00:44:59] Hunter: I would agree completely. I’ve been running now since I was like 16 and I’m 44 and I run two or three miles. Sometimes I’m run, Four times a week or something. Yeah. Or three times a week.

And for me, that piece about exercise every day, like I practice, I meditate almost every day and I do some exercise every day. And I need all of those things,

[00:45:29] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: me too. First thing I do when I wake up, I ha I do my meditation. I do my, and it can even just be five min, it’s almost like the same thing with mindfulness, it’s Use and they say this, right?

Fi get it in five minutes, 10 minutes, 15, whatever time you have do that. And then try to do it throughout the day. Whether you’re washing the dishes or whether you’re walking to your car, you can have these moments of mindfulness and it’s almost is the same way you need to think about movement, right?

Whatever you can do today will be good enough, but you need to move. And like maybe instead of parking, right by the door, you park at the back of the parking lot and you take that movement to walk in, and just sprinkling it in throughout the day. If that’s all you can do that day, it’s just, it’s like a different way of thinking

[00:46:28] Hunter: about it.

I agree. And it, and I just wanna like point out to the listener. Sometimes we have this idea in our culture that we should just be able to sit around, do our job, drive everywhere, watch TV. And we’re gonna just feel hunky Dory after all of that. Like somehow, like we think that, but it actually like our bodies evolve to move and like it takes.

And our bodies also evolve to have a negativity bias, so it, it takes some and to be reactive, we have this nervous system. So it takes some effort. We’re not just gonna feel like grounded and peaceful and content in our bodies and energized without. Putting some of these practices in place, including movement and

[00:47:16] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: mindfulness yeah, there’s this really fascinating study that’s that shows that the brain, although it’s it’s energy conservative, it actually expects that you’re moving at least a moderate amount.

And it sets your hunger dial to be. as if you’re moving a moderate amount, which is why it’s so difficult to maintain our weight when we’re not moving. For example, like even just, a lot of people think about that, it makes it more difficult and that’s just, I see that, weight maintenance as like a, an added bonus to the mental health piece of movement.

But just to, so yeah, put it in perspective that the brain’s expecting you to move that much so much that it. It does the hunger dial to moderate. It doesn’t have a low hunger dial setting. It has a moderate level that’s as low as it goes.

[00:48:17] Hunter: That makes sense. And sometimes it’s crazy the way we think of ourselves.

If we’re a dog owner, we know that we have to walk our dog every day. That a dog is a mam that needs exercise. Every day needs to go for what? But yet we think like with humans, like we just don’t need that. That doesn’t make. Sense, yeah.

[00:48:36] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: And I, and maybe it comes back to the self care piece, right?

Like we love our dog needs us, our dog needs to walk, and it’s caring for somebody else rather than caring, putting that self care back to ourselves. Yeah. So nefarious,

[00:48:53] Hunter: martyr piece, that selflessness is the best thing ever.

[00:48:59] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: No wrong. who came up with that? Anyway,

[00:49:05] Hunter: some someone, some men, I

[00:49:08] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: think in a picture, some like

[00:49:11] Hunter: women should be very selfless.

Yeah. This is fascinating, Jennifer. This is So helpful. I think I’m so glad you’re like my first like exercise person to come under. My like 300 plus episodes is so funny. Yeah. I really appreciate your approach because you’re just, it’s, there’s it’s about all of our life, right?

It’s not about just like how we look it’s, how we feel, how we think, how we are gonna age, how our. It’s vital to everything. Like we are beings that evolve to move. We gotta do it. Yeah. So thank you so much for writing your book, move the body, heal the mind. You can find it anywhere books are sold.

And where can you find out more about where can the listener find out more about what you’re doing?

[00:50:08] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Yeah. So I have a website, Jennifer Heiss H E I. Z or Z depending on the part of the world you’re in dot com. So Jennifer hes.com. That’s my name. And you’ll find links to some of the Ironman videos there.

You’ll see my family and friends cheer me on in the solo Ironman. And it links also to my lab website, where you can learn about the research that we do that I cover in the book.

[00:50:39] Hunter: Jennifer. Thank you so much for sharing your time for doing this work for adding this, your voice to this conversation.

I think it’s so valuable and I really appreciate it.

[00:50:51] Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Thanks so much for having me.


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