Log In

Reset Password

‘Work out’ bad thoughts: exercise

They say a leopard can’t change its spots.

What I used to say about Deion Sanders during his football-playing days is that he’s a bigmouth: A hard-to-take, hey-look-at-me bigmouth.

Then my brother emailed me a recent video of Sanders as coach of the Colorado University football team giving a speech before an off-season workout. I’m not sure why I invested the time to listen to the words of a guy who once arrived at a game wearing a white tuxedo in a white limo - while still in college, mind you - and referred to himself as Prime Time, but am I ever glad I did.

It gave me extra juice during my bike ride that morning along with a few goosebumps thrown in for good measure. If that would’ve been the end of it, however, you wouldn’t be reading about the speech.

But Sanders’ words have continued to have an impact on me. I find myself thinking about them and gaining strength from them daily.

So could there actually be different spots on this cat’s underbelly now, or did I just miss them before? Who knows?

What I do know is that there’s a way for you to answer the final question Sanders asks his team in the affirmative.

In the aforementioned video, Sanders enters the room as Bill Withers’ 1977 hit song, “Lovely Day,” plays and wants to know if anyone knows the name of the tune. He then asks what makes a day lovely.

After entertaining a few responses, Sanders gets to the heart of the matter. “I do not have bad days,” he says.

“I may have a bad moment, I may even have a bad minute or a bad hour, but I would never allow it to get to the point where I have a bad day. Because I’m in control of that.

“You do not have the remote control of my life to turn me off and on. I have control of that.

“So knowing that you have the propensity, the power, and the authority to make your day a lovely day, why don’t you do it? ... What are you waiting on?”

If you’re not a college football player but an avid exerciser, what you may very well be waiting on is your next workout. That’s because breaking a sweat is not only a great way to work out your legs and your lungs, but also possibly the best way to work out the bad thoughts in your mind.

And that, my friend, surely leads to a lovely day.

While numerous studies have found all forms of exercise to be effective for managing depression, anxiety, and psychological distress, the American Psychological Association Clinical Practice Guidelines still recognize medication and psychotherapy as the top forms of treatment and call exercise an “alternate” form. Though not a negative designation, it’s hardly the ringing endorsement that a few researchers recently gave exercise after they conducted the most comprehensive and broadest type of study to date about the link between exercise and mental health.

A slew of researchers at the University of South Australia searched 12 electronic databases for all relevant materials published prior to Jan. 1, 2022 and found a total of 1039 pertinent trials inside 97 reviews. Called an umbrella review - a systematic study of all previous research to provide an overall assessment on a specific topic - their efforts led to information on more than 125,000 individuals.

The statistical analysis they did subsequently saw print in the February 2023 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine and “underscores the need for PA [physical activity] to be a mainstay approach for managing depression and anxiety.”

Now I’m not sure why the researchers chose “underscores” instead of “emphasizes,” but they’re essentially one in the same - so here’s what I’ll underscore about the review for you. Those looking to improve mild-to-moderate states of depression, anxiety, or psychological distress were 150 percent more likely to find it by engaging in prescribed exercise for about 12 weeks than by receiving therapy or medication.

Which begs the question: What would you rather do when feeling a bit blue? Take meds, a trip to a shrink’s office, or a run, ride, walk, or hike?

It would be inappropriate - and also irresponsible - for the researchers to argue that the 150-percent difference means exercise should supersede therapy and medication as the means to improve poor mental health in all situations. But expressing the need for it to become “a mainstay approach” shows they feel it should be seen as much more than the “alternate” form of treatment that the American Psychological Association Clinical Practice Guidelines claim it to be.

So if these researchers would’ve been part of the group listening to Sanders’ motivational speech that finished with him asking, “Can we make today a lovely day?,” they would’ve probably asked a question of their own.

“Can we find the time to exercise?”

Do your legs, lungs, and mind a favor, my friend, and take whatever measures need to be taken to answer “yes” to both.