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Celebrating SevenDays | Go

The Exercise Effect

Young woman in green shirt writes on paper.
At a recent meeting of the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance, high school students complete an exercise in communicating and interacting with people of other faiths. The KCIYA will meet again today as part of SevenDays. (Photo: Flatland)
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This story is part of our coverage of Kansas City’s SevenDays project, which aims to bring people together to conquer hate and celebrate diversity. The project is led by Mindy Corporon, who lost two family members in the April 2014 shootings at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. For each of the seven days, Corporon joins us for a video intro to the day’s activities (above), and Flatland is running a daily dispatch from students at the Missouri School of Journalism, inspired by the day’s theme. Journalism student Emma Nicolas wrote on today’s theme, “go”.

Arms splayed out on either side of the mat, eyes closed, with a smile.

A woman pushing a baby stroller

Fitness instructor Kelsie Wilhoit says yoga improves her mental outlook. “It gives you this empowerment and control, it’s like the one thing you can control even when you can’t control anything else.”

This is how Kelsie Wilhoit, a group fitness instructor in Lenexa, Kansas, ends each of her yoga classes.

“It seems a little goofy, but it really works,” Wilhoit admits.

For Wilhoit, working out has always been about more than achieving a beach body. While a toned body is an extra bonus, Wilhoit says getting exercise gives her strength physically and — more importantly — mentally.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Wilhoit says of yoga. “It gives you this empowerment and control, it’s like the one thing you can control even when you can’t control anything else.”

Wilhoit teaches yoga, pilates, and a fusion class called yogalates throughout gyms in Lenexa, four to five days a week.

She says she turned to teaching yoga more recently after suffering postpartum depression following the birth of her now 1-year-old daughter. And that yoga became a huge part of her healing process.

Wilhoit says yoga can be most powerful for symptoms of anxiety and depression. Regular exercise, like yoga classes, are proven to not only provide short term mood enhancements, but also alleviate symptoms of depression in the long term.

“If I feel like I cannot fit one more thing onto my plate, I try to shut my brain down and go for a walk even though it seems counterintuitive. … It always helps.”

But she admits that some days stress levels are high and it seems impossible to fit a workout into her day.

“For some reason,” Wilhoit says, “it’s the first thing we want to kick off the to-do list.”

Once she makes time for a workout, though, Wilhoit says she always feels better and ready to tackle the day.

And it doesn’t have to be an organized class, Wilhoit points out.

“If I feel like I cannot fit one more thing onto my plate, I try to shut my brain down and go for a walk even though it seems counterintuitive,” Wilhoit says. “It always helps.”

The fitness instructor and her husband take their daughter for half-hour to hour-long walks multiple times during the week. And the regular walks can be another stress reliever. A study carried out by C3 Collaborating for Health found benefits to walking include improved sleep quality and reduced symptoms of anxiety and stress.

This story is part of the KCPT and Hale Center for Journalism project Beyond Belief, a series of stories and discussions about faith in our city. The project is part of Localore: Finding America, created by AIR, a Boston-based network of independent public media producers. Principle funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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