Movement and Mental Health

We all know that exercise is good for physical health, but what about the connection between exercise and mental health?  Researchers have been teasing out the links between daily activity, programmed exercise and mental well being, and the results are very encouraging.  There seems to be good reason to keep moving, certainly for body but also for mind.

Living a sedentary life has predictable health consequences, some of which are purely psychological. There’s an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms, and more sedentary time tends to increase that risk, as well as the odds of feeling moody, unfocused, anxious and stressed. If you suffer from any of these conditions, regular exercise could be the key to keeping you healthy in both body and mind. Making movement a consistent part of life will help stave off depression and increase resiliency to daily stress.

Both aerobic exercise and resistance training have positive psychological effects, and doing both as part of a complete program has a stronger impact.  I believe it’s most important to start with something you enjoy. If you hate running (for example) but force yourself to do it , you’ll dread it and eventually abandon the effort.  Exercise has to be consistent to be effective, but it doesn’t need to be torturous.

More vigorous exercise seems to have a stronger association with reduced risk of depression, but even less intense exercise can be effective. So exercising with heavier effort could be a long term goal, but simply taking a 15 minute daily walk is a good start.  Finding the level of exercise activity you need to feel better is an individual pursuit.  If you need help putting your program together, come see one of our trainers.

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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

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