I honestly believe that if people exercised enough, the pharmaceutical industry would lose A LOT of money. That’s because there wouldn’t be a need for antidepressants. I mean, you know how amazing it feels after you just sweated through a 3-mile run? Or kicked butt in a boxing class? Or even found some quiet in our ever-buzzing brains during a yoga practice? For me, exercising, breathing, sweating -- it’s the ultimate happy pill.
Now I don’t know the exact science behind it. I think it has something to do with endorphins and serotonin, but no matter my level of crankiness (and it can get pretty high at times) a good sweaty workout can always lift my spirits. I mean who needs a shrink, when you have a treadmill?
So when our friends over at Washington Sports Club told me about their latest class -– The Lighten Up Workout -– I knew I had to try it. This class features 30 minutes of butt-kicking, sweat-your-face-off cardio, followed by 30 minutes of relaxation under a special light. Now this light won’t give you a tan. It’s one of those Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lights that’s supposed to boost your mood.
So last week I took my tired self over to WSC’s North Bethesda location. I wasn’t exactly in the mood to exercise. I was tired and feeling heavy. Plus, I was suspicious about the cardio portion of the class. I was imagining 30 minutes of Jazzercise, complete with multiple repetitions of the grapevine.
To my surprise/horror/delight, the ever bubbly instructor, Libby Linden Rubin, worked us for nearly 40 minutes, switching between 2 minutes of aerobics (think jumping jacks and high knees) and 2 minutes light weights (lunges, squats). Seriously, I was trying to maintain my composure throughout this ordeal. I’m supposed to be the "What’s Your Workout" guru. I didn’t want to look like I couldn’t handle the workout. But it was tough and I was sweating. And when I caught a glimpse of my reflection, I was in awe. I was bright red! The only time this happens to me is when I run. AHHHHHHHHH score! Let the endorphins flow! Let me drink your sweet nectar!
Next we turned off the lights on the ceiling, turned on our "special" lights, lined our mats up in front of their glorious beams and stretched. It was a pretty sweet end to a tough workout. We completed the stretch with a form of savasana (non-yoga translation: lying on the floor) but with our eyes open. In fact, you really want to close your eyes through the whole stretching portion. But Rubin says you’re supposed to leave them open so the light absorbs through your retina and gets to the brain.
When we finished I was tired, but peaceful. Funny thing is, as fatigued as I felt I don’t think I could have fallen asleep. And that night, I did have some trouble sleeping. My retinas must have really done their job! In fact, next time one of my colleagues gets all cranky on me, I’m going to tell them to "Lighten Up."
Lauren Dunn is News4's medical producer.