A Healthy Mind: How Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Wellness

overview: Even a little physical activity or exercise throughout the day can help improve your mental health.

sauce: University of Toronto

Toronto is experiencing a particularly gloomy January, and many of you may be wondering what you can do to improve your mental health.

Exercise is one potentially important strategy, says Katherine Sabiston, professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) at the University of Toronto.

“If people can engage in small bouts of physical activity throughout the day, even one to two minutes at a time, and increase it to 10 to 20 minutes per day, that’s beneficial,” she recommends.

Sabiston, Canadian Research Chair for Physical Activity and Mental Health, directs KPE’s Mental Health and Physical Activity Research Center (MPARC). The center studies the relationship between physical activity and mental health and develops and evaluates interventions to promote physical activity and mental health in people at risk for physical inactivity and mental health problems.

We also run a six-week program called MoveU.HappyU, which provides customized coaching and training aimed at reducing stress and anxiety in students through physical movement.

Writer Jelena Damjanovich recently sat down with Sabiston to discuss the benefits exercise has for our bodies and minds.

We all know that physical activity is good for the body, but there is growing evidence that physical activity is good for the soul too. Can you explain the science behind it? how do you reward them?

Physical activity can benefit our physical health in as many ways as it benefits our mental health. Technically speaking, mental health is the very result of how our brain rewards us for being in motion.

Our brain is responsible for much of the way we feel, think and act. When we are physically active, these effects occur through an increase in cellular and molecular processes such as cerebral blood flow, neurotrophic factor circulation, and a cascade of cellular mechanisms that positively affect the function of many brain regions. improve the system.

Exercising also raises your body temperature, making you feel more comfortable and safer by keeping you warm. The warmth and comfort you get from physical activity is fundamental to your mental health, especially taking care of yourself.

Also, as humans, we were meant to be more active than we are now. When we think of our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers, their days were filled with moving and working to meet every need. Since we have become more sedentary, our brain prefers it when we are actually active and guides us to the level of activity we should be. It’s a kind of homeostasis where your activity levels match your natural human intentions.

Beyond cells and molecules, what role does our mind play in how we perceive the mental health benefits of physical activity?

Self-awareness is an important indicator of mental health. Being physically active builds a sense of mastery and confidence that not only helps us to keep going, but also helps our mental health.

Whether we are doing physical activity with others, virtually or in person, or even if we are active outside and meeting others in our environment, it all builds our mental health. In fact, just like exercising with your dog, being physically active outdoors exacerbates all the positive benefits.

How much physical activity (per day or week) is required to reap all these benefits?

There are all sorts of guidelines about physical activity, and the latest Canadian exercise guidelines explored the mental health benefits a bit, but not as much as they were designed for physical health benefits.

The challenge with guidelines is that they are set by others and not everyone can achieve them. So, especially from a mental health perspective, being a little more active and doing a little more movement each day can serve as a starting point. If you can engage in seizures and increase to 10 to 20 minutes per day, it will be beneficial.

Although this research is still in its early stages when it comes to the amount, frequency, and type of physical activity, we generally know that intermittent hours of activity can help.

Is it important to exercise in the morning, afternoon, or evening?

In terms of benefits, it remains to be seen whether one time of day is better than another, and whether everyone benefits equally based on identity factors such as gender, race, and age. not.

It is important to plan your physical activity during times when you can actually do it. That’s more important than having a best time. If I say that evening is the best time and you can’t incorporate physical activity into your evening routine, it’s not the best time.

Are all exercises equally good for us?

Technically, all exercise is good for us in that it is exercise for mental health benefits. other people doing it, or someone telling you to do it) is not good for us.

Also, adding small bursts of physical activity throughout the day can be beneficial if these bursts are intentional.

Is the “runner’s high” real or a myth? Can any exercise get you high?

The quintessential “runner’s high” has been used to describe a state during exercise in which the mind and body are in sync, free from self-criticism and other thoughts, and feel at ease while immersing themselves in their environment. Time passes and you generally feel better.

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A “runner’s high” can be experienced in any exercise where these conditions are met, but it is often easier to experience over longer, non-repetitive distances outdoors, so running, paddling Due to the complexity of the environment and people, we rarely experience such flow conditions during team sports or group activities.

And while this runner’s high or flow can be experienced with exercises of varying intensity, it’s more likely to occur when you’re pushing yourself at least a little. Participating in activities requires some effort.

How is the MoveU.HappyU program helping students reduce stress and anxiety?

With a focus on personalized physical activity, this program embraces the fact that exercise should be fun and build confidence while promoting maintenance.

This shows a running woman
Physical activity can help our physical health in as many ways as it does our mental health. Image is in the public domain

The six-week program resulted in consistently significant reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms, as well as improvements in self-confidence, proficiency, quality of life, and self-esteem after the program.

What advice would you give to students and others who want to get more physical activity but can’t make it to the six-week program?

Here are some tips for incorporating physical activity into your day.

  • Look for drop-in programs and on-campus activities offered through KPE’s Sports and Recreation Program. Try out different activities and find a favorite that you’ll keep coming back to.
  • Get off the bus or subway one or two early or two late, park your car farther from your destination, and make the long drive to class. Always use stairs or ramps, not elevators or escalators. Schedule an extra 20 minutes on your calendar to allow for an active commute.
  • Move with intention, but without purpose. When shopping, move through centers and stores instead of just getting what you need. For example, I walk or wheel through every aisle in a supermarket, even if I just want vegetables. Move around the entire bookstore instead of just getting what you need.
  • Grab your coffee/tea/juice and move instead of sitting in a cafe. Try to have movement-based meetings with others or when planning group assignments. If you often work in groups, assign one of her per meeting to lead a 3-5 minute locomotion activity.
  • Stand and move as much as possible throughout the day. There’s new evidence that sedentary breaks are so important for your health.
  • We use technology to “gamify” our activities. For example, buy a pedometer and try to take a few extra steps each day. If you like competition and support, invite others to join your goal of getting more travel time or distance. You can also use an online mapping program or smartphone application that displays the You can even start mapping your route and get creative with the art you can create.

Do you have any tips for staying motivated for physical activity, especially on gray and chilly days like these days?

It’s important to get rid of self-criticism and be proactive while being proactive. You may not be able to do as many activities as you think you need, but every little bit helps. Maintaining a consistent sleep pattern is also important, even when it’s very dark and dark.

Regardless of sunlight, natural light is really important. If you really don’t like the idea of ​​stepping out in layers, now’s a good time to try out virtual fitness classes, which are more available than ever.

There are many free workouts available online and on social media, such as U of T. 3 minute motion break video Sports & Rex virtual workout library.

About this exercise and mental health research news

author: Jelena Damjanovich
sauce: University of Toronto
contact: Jelena Damjanovic – University of Toronto
image: image is public domain

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