By: Ari Penalosa, LPC, LMFT TMD Counselor
The Mind Body Connection
Recent research shows there’s a connection between physical and emotional wellness. So, the next time you hit the running trail, take your dog for a walk, or tend to your garden you’ll be working out more than just your body. The mind body connection is powerful and are often interdependent on each other.
Benefits on Mood and Mental Health:
Did you know that physical exercise helps the release of endorphins, also known as “the feel-good chemicals”, in the brain? Considered natural mood lifters, studies show endorphins are increased through moderate exercise.
Studies indicate people who exercise regularly have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who don't. Similar studies also show moderate intensity exercise can be an effective treatment on its own for mild-to-moderate depression. Exercise has been shown to ease chronic depression by increasing serotonin which helps your brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite.
Individuals that deal with anxiety and depression can find exercise serves as healthy coping strategy by shifting focus to the here and now and helping them take their mind off their worries.
Other positive aspects of physical exercise can be increased energy levels and improved sleep, as well as prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. It can also serve to increase focus and concentration. For some individuals meeting exercise goals can give them a sense of accomplishment and provide them a boost in self-confidence.
What does an effective exercise routine look like?
Before starting any kind of exercise regime please make sure to consult with your medical provider. It’s also important to note that exercise alone cannot serve a replacement for talk therapy or taking psychotropic medications.
For many the idea of starting an exercise regime might seem tedious and intimidating, even more so for those dealing with depression and anxiety. An effective exercise routine does not have to be time consuming or overly strenuous. In fact, it’s advisable to start slow with realistic exercise goals that will ensure you stick with your fitness regimen. A recent Harvard study showed that running for 15 minutes a day or walking briskly for an hour reduced the risk of major depression.
Points to Consider:
In order to ensure that you’ll stay motivated and consistent with your exercise regime consider the following:
• Do activities you enjoy or explore new forms of exercise (Zumba, hiking, yoga, or anything that will put a smile on your face and gets your heart rate up).
• Think about a set time that’s convenient in order to increase the chance that you’ll follow through with your new plan.
• Remember to create your exercise plan with your own needs and physical abilities in mind.
Don’t get discouraged if find it difficult to stick to a new exercise regime. Be honest with yourself and determine what's stopping you from exercising or being physically active. It’s normal to have setbacks and encounter obstacles. Try to reframe exercise from being a chore to more of a lifestyle change. Be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for any effort made towards this new journey into a more active lifestyle. Your mind and body will thank you for it.