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The science behind why exercise can be a stress-buster and how to recognise when enough is enough

When we exercise we feel good.

More often than not I repeat this to myself as a mantra whilst running — I have the somewhat shaky belief that if I say it enough, it must be true. I imagine I can feel all those neurotransmitters flooding my brain with happiness as I drag myself back up the hill home, the sheep looking on in bewilderment. The main advantage to living in the middle of nowhere is that there are no sentient neighbours to witness this spectacle.

The weird thing is though, however painful (physically and mentally) my run, I do…

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If you had clapped eyes on me a few years ago you would have been looking at an emotionally frazzled, chronically exhausted, comfort eating, hormonal wreck masquerading as Wonder Woman. Cape on, I seamlessly juggled my career, home, husband, dogs, chickens, and kids (in no particular order) whilst finding time to prepare great meals and get to the gym. Just check out my social media, it must be true. Reality was that as soon as I came home and hung up my cape, I resembled a car crash happening in slow motion.

To cut a long story short, I ended…

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I’ve never been a ‘dieter’ as such which I put down to a mixture of laziness, an addiction to bread and butter and an innate feeling that I’d rather be fit and strong than skinny. But I’m not immune to the social pressure either.

Obviously whenever I go clothes shopping I believe I have the body of Cindy Crawford and every time I glare at my reflection in the mirror I’m astonished that a new dress or pair of jeans doesn’t cause me to grow 7 inches, lose 10lbs, give me shiny, airbrushed hair and a flawless complexion. In reality…

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I’m beginning to suspect that that the real reason why I fall short of attaining almost all my health and fitness goals is me. I suspect it is the same for you, not because of any innate character flaw, but simply because we are human.

I read a lot about self-sabotage. I always think the phrase implies I am consciously trying to derail myself when the truth is that my brain and body are just doing an essential job in keeping my body budget balanced.

When energy in = energy out, everybody is happy.

Trying to lose a few pounds…

the good news is that it’s not because you lack willpower

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Everyone I know has, at some point or other in their life, looked in a mirror and decided that they need to shape up and lose a few pounds. I suspect that it was not one-off experience. We are all pretty hopeless at attaining and then maintaining a healthy body weight over the course of our adult lives. It always seems to be creeping up.

Yet most off us know what we need to do — eat more healthily and exercise a little more — so why is it so hard?

The good news is that it is not simply…

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay *

It has been brought to my attention that Sunday is Valentine’s day, not by my husband naturally, but by my calendar app, the font of all knowledge in our household. February 14th, the day of unrequited passions, infatuations and enduring love. The day of red roses, balloons, chocolate and squirmingly sentimental, overpriced cards.

But how exactly would you define love?

The Oxford English dictionary defines love as an intense feeling of deep affection, a great interest and pleasure in a person or a thing, which seems kind of wish-washy to me, so I turned to the Urban Dictionary, a source…

Modern life survival guide #2 — myth busting!

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The conversation around fats in our diets has become a series of scare stories in which cholesterol is invariably the villain and our hearts and waistlines are the victims. And yet, versions of low carb / high fat and protein diets such as the Atkins or Keto diet appear to be astonishingly successful for many people, both in terms of weight loss and some health markers.

Confused? I certainly was, and that was before I admitted to myself that I wasn’t actually all that clear on the whole cholesterol — saturated — unsaturated fat thing anyway.

So what is the…

We all need to escape the news cycle of doom and gloom.

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I have spent most of today doomscrolling. I didn’t, until recently, know that this was a thing but it pretty much sums up my Covid existence. It has become my procrastinating distraction of choice and its doing me absoultely no good whatsoever.

Doomscrolling is the activity of scrolling through a feed to read items about tragic or disastrous events.

To be honest, I was a doomscroller well before the pandemic. The omnishambles that is British politics necessitated the installing of a news app on my phone a couple of years ago. It seemed so innocent but within days I was…

Modern life survival guide #1

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Take a step back and let’s look at the bigger picture. What does it mean to be human?

The dictionary definitions are all distinctly disappointing; bipedal primate mammal, person, man woman child. Other definitions focus on what we can do, how we communicate, our thinking, the troublesome nature of consciousness. But none of them get to the nub of it, not as I understand it to be.

Humans are a miracle of evolution, an ecosystem, a perfect symbiosis of tens of trillions of archae and fungi, microbes and phages, parasites and viruses and just one…

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I have a rather volatile relationship with exercise. Some weeks I run, hit the gym and walk dogs endlessly, but then weeks can fly by when I simply cannot find the time/motivation/energy / insert own excuse actually to make it happen. I suspect I am not alone here.

Why real brain-training happens when we get moving

There are numerous health-related reasons for making exercise a priority — cardiovascular fitness, reducing risk factors for type 2 diabetes and obesity, building muscle and bone strength, improved energy and endurance — but a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon something that has genuinely made me stop and re-evaluate my current state of lethargy.

The brains of older adults who exercise regularly look up to 10 years younger in brain scans than those of their more sedentary peers, with an increased hippocampus (a part of the brain concerned with storing short-term memory) and improved cognitive functioning.

Exercise causes blood…

Sarah Parkes

Teacher, writer, gardener. Fascinated by humans, chemistry, the gut microbiome, brain health, great food, dogs and chickens. In no particular order.

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