Regular exercise improves cardiovascular and mental health, clearing stress-related fog
Taylor Catrett started training people during his service in the Army. His predilection for fitness propelled him to leading his platoon during morning PT (physical training) sessions. The work was functional—exercises aimed at hauling heavy gear or carrying a fellow soldier. Lots of pull-ups, push-ups and tire flips.
“I found out I really like training people,” Catrett told the CN&R on a recent afternoon at his gym, Creed Strength & Fitness, in Chico. “Then I found out you could do it for a living, and so I was like, OK, well, I’m going to do it right.”
After the Army, Catrett completed his undergraduate work in kinesiology at San Jose State before earning his master’s in the field at Sacramento State. He opened his studio gym on Walnut Street about a year ago, finding he wanted to apply his experience toward helping athletes and the broader general populace achieve their fitness goals.
Catrett, whose demeanor is less stereotypical drill sergeant and more focused and patient teacher, encourages people to adopt an exercise regimen, noting the benefits range from improving heart and mental health to managing pain and correcting poor posture. It’s a form of self-care that can bring the body in balance.
Exercise, he says, helps to lower one’s resting heart rate and move oxygenated blood throughout the body more efficiently. It also can alleviate pain by getting the body moving and strengthening weak muscles.
Beyond the physical benefits, Catrett said a workout can clear the mind, release endorphins and warm the body up to take on the day. Sustained, deliberate movement also can clear the fog of work- or relationship-related stress.
“The physical aspect helps you turn your brain off a little bit to what’s going on outside and kind of just focus on what’s happening in the here and now,” he said. “When you feel better about yourself and you like yourself more physically, you’ll probably be able to handle the emotional stresses a little bit better.”
Studies have shown that aerobic exercise—such as jogging, swimming and cycling—can improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood. That’s on top of the other health benefits of regular exercise, such as reduced cholesterol, improved sleep, weight loss and increased energy and stamina.
Doctors say a brisk, 30-minute walk three to five days per week can be enough to see health benefits. And that’s where Catrett would have people start if they’re just beginning or rekindling an interest in a more active lifestyle.
For two or three days a week, he said, people should do something that is outside their normal routine in order to get their bodies to adapt to a new stimulus. A 30-minute walk could suffice, or a more challenging run would do for the more experienced. Basically: get moving.
“The human body is very adaptable,” Catrett said. “I liken it to that strong construction guy who has that big beer belly. When he was in his 20s he could go and drink beer and eat whatever he wanted. The job didn’t change, so his body adapted to that exercise and … got comfortable in its new homeostasis.”
Catrett seizes on the idea of change. Changes in stimuli—such as performing exercises in varying intervals—will allow the body to adapt and become stronger.
“And we’re not talking about lifting 600 pounds here,” he said. “We’re talking about … [having] some flexibility and some mobility so that you can meet the demands of the real world—whether it’s gardening, golfing, skiing, kayaking, hiking—all the fun stuff that you would enjoy to do outside, or even just playing with your grandkids or keeping up with your kids in general.”
At some point, Catrett recommends seeking out a professional to safely and properly guide workouts and other physical activity. He said small studio gyms like his also foster a sense of community and an encouraging environment in which people are striving to meet their personal goals.
“The human body is meant to move,” he said. “Human movement is key to our existence and our survival. So we want to operate the most efficient way we can. We want to move optimally. We want to feel better and not be in pain, so that our quality of life can be better. So we can enjoy life. I feel we are meant to enjoy this world.”