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Mens Sana In Corpore Sana

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Elite fitness trainer and Kinetica Sports Ambassador, Jon Denoris reveals why mind over matter really does count when it comes to becoming a corporate athlete

Although the Greeks are playing out a modern day tragedy, we can still learn much from their ancient past when it comes to understanding the importance and indeed relevance of exercise and staying in shape. Most of us are well aware of the many physical benefits of exercise, less obvious however, is the emerging research demonstrating the many benefits that simply staying in shape can have on our minds. In particular consider that Plato gained honours for wrestling and his values for daily gymnastic training are set out in The Republic, in them he stressed keeping generally alert and free from ill health, and ready for eventual war or hardship, here we find the origins of the sound of body and sound of mind philosophy.

As we become more and more technology driven & desk based, the term ("playstation - nation" has even recently been coined for our kids), it's easy to forget that we are actually "natural born movers". Most of us know that we feel great after exercising but we don't really know why.
As a Coach with 20 years experience and an ambassador for Kinetica Sports Nutrition I have developed programmes which I believe are cutting-edge, both in terms of exercise and nutrition, to allow them to increase their energy levels and as a consequence their capacity to tolerate higher levels of stress, rather than trying to reduce the stress levels around them. In this way we treat all our corporate clients as we would our athletes, and as such we fuel them as we would our top performers. The careful and strategic use of quality sports nutrition and supplements (where appropriate) can play a vital role in increasing energy, endurance, focus and overall performance, not just for sportspeople but equally for the corporate athletes and weekend warriors.

I have always known intuitively that different types of exercise made my clients react and feel differently. Whilst all forms of exercise seemed to give them that endorphin rush, the buzz they got from running a 10K on the treadmill was different to that of playing squash or racquetball, agility or quickness drills. I discovered that integrating decision into fitness sessions seemed to be the difference. In fact, if I wanted to get a client to forget about "work life" whilst training, I would ensure that their fitness session involved making quick decisions, such as boxing training, which seemed to force them to "forget".

The mechanisms for the above, however are becoming clearer with new research in the area of how exercise impacts brain function, and it's fascinating stuff... I work with peak performers from the worlds of business, sport and entertainment and they share similar traits. They ask me to put together strategies that not only improve their physical health, but that will make them more competitive, creative and focused. I have developed programmes I believe are cutting-edge, both in terms of exercise and nutrition, to allow them to increase their energy levels and as a consequence their capacity to tolerate higher levels of stress, rather than trying to reduce the stress levels around them.

These are my current favourite benefits of exercise & brain function...
1. It elevates your stress threshold; exercise helps in the fight against the stress hormone cortisol, a product of chronic stress that can lead to depression and dementia. Exercise makes proteins that fixes the damage and delays the process.

2. It lifts your mood; In a landmark study in this area by researchers at Duke University (known as the SMILE study) exercise was compared against the anti-depressant (Zoloft) and was found to be at least as effective as medication in helping people with mild depression.

3. It improves "Executive Functioning"; this is the area of the brain concerned with planning, organizing, and multi-tasking. The reasons for this are complex but include improved blood flow to the brain, and hence oxygen, fuel and nutrients. Exercise also increases levels of a substance called BDNF which encourages growth and communication between the cells of the brain. Combining exercise with music can increase these benefits even more; researchers combined exercising with listening to "Vivaldi's Four Seasons" and found improvements in verbal skills and mood tests greater than exercising to the sound of silence...

4. Exercise improves sleep quality; Often a symptom of stress and anxiety (see 1 & 2) and common in post-menopausal women, research suggests morning exercise may be the most beneficial time for this population group to exercise. This may be to do with our circadian rhythms.

5. It boosts the immune system; Aging and stress can harm our immune response. Moderate activity dial's up the body's production of T cells attacking bacteria, virus's & even helping reduce the risk of certain cancers, physically active people have a 50% lower risk of developing colon cancer and active women have an 18% reduced risk of breast cancer (even those with a family history of the disease)

Begin by building your body and brain plan up gradually, all forms of exercise are great for this, however novel ideas include;

• "walking-book" sessions, where you combine going hiking or cycling, or for a walk in the park with various "book break's" to read along the way. (ref.Ratey)
• Taking up a sport such as tennis, squash or orienteering which involve decision making whilst being active.
• Fitness sessions involving boxing based movements which require you to use both left and right sides of the brain and body.
• "Juggling" either as an activity in it's own right or in between sets of weights in the gym