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Boosting Mental Health and Healing The Brain Through Exercise

Today’s blog post will explore how to use exercise to improve mental health and how it works.

When talking about the benefits of exercise, one of the most common points made is “exercise is good for your mental health”. Although this is completely true, the statement does not do justice for just how much exercise can do for mental health. It has been found that exercise helps promote new blood vessel growth in the brain, increasing blood flow to the brain and increasing the survival of new brain cells, helping the brain renew and heal itself. Negative mental health states and disorders such as anxiety and depression can lead to a decrease in serotonin, a prime hormone in the brain responsible for the sensation of happiness and joy. Luckily, exercise is known to increase serotonin, counteracting these negative effects. 

The World Health Organisation has declared In 2015 it was estimated that “the total number of people living with depression in the world is 322 million”, now it is more important now than ever to take care of yourself mentaly. Luckily there are some scientifically backed strategies on how exercise can be used to give you a mind set boost. 

Strategy 1: Group exercise / partner training

In a 2015 study it was found that group exercise had a positive effect on mental state and on the perception of enjoyment while exercising. It was suggested that this was due to the social environment and the level of support experienced by being in a group. This could be part of the reason exercise classes are so popular in most gyms. Club Gym Wellness is no different, with a range of classes to choose from and even the option of Group PT there are many opportunities to reap the mental benefits of group exercise. 

This benefit can also be achieved by training with another individual such as a friend, partner or even a Personal Trainer. If you are used to training by yourself and want to see what it’s like to experience these benefits but are struggling to find a workout partner, many trainers will be happy to provide a free 30 minute taster session. This will also mean you get a segment of a customised training plan and other benefits!

Strategy 2: Do what you enjoy!

Next it is recommended by the NHS to make sure you choose exercise you enjoy. 

By doing what you enjoy, it will do a better job of uplifting your spirits and you are more likely to stick with it, which is key. 

Although all exercise can be uncomfortable at first, you eventually learn to enjoy certain types more than others and those are the ones you should stick with. As a place to start, each type of exercise offers different ways to boost mental morale, which brings us to our next strategy.  

Strategy 3: Type of exercise 

Cardio

Cardio offers the chance to be engaged in exercise for long durations, allowing for a long lasting distraction from life problems. Cardio also leads to the well known “runners high”: a large dump of endorphins that creates a similar feeling to morphine. This drastically boosts mental state and eases any pain you are feeling. 

Resistance / weight training

Weight training has rests in between sets but the sets require so much concentration they offer a complete block to any other thoughts while you focus on technique. Intense weight training sessions are also known to promote endorphin releases. 

Flexibility / yoga

Finally is flexibility training such as static stretching or yoga. These training methods usually incorporate mindfulness and body awareness as well as focus on the breath. These are known to aid with poor mental states and increase individuals ability to deal with negative situations and thoughts. In general yoga and stretching is popularised by its calming effect on people’s minds. 

The proof is in the pudding (In this case pudding means brain as pudding is high in fat and the brain is made up of 60% fat)

There is a fair amount of evidence mounting that supports just how beneficial exercise is for the brain physically. For example; when people are in a negative mind set for prolonged periods, there is an increase of C-reactive proteins in the brain. These proteins are shown to cause inflammation and deterioration of brain tissue. This then leads to a depletion and reduced ability to utilise serotonin, which prevents feelings of joy, prolonging the negative emotional state and potentially worsening it. This is the physical proof of brain damage caused by a negative mood and how it’s not just a case of needing to think differently or “cheer up”.

Exercise has shown to physically reduce the amount of this destructive protein in the brain. Coupled with how exercise promotes blood vesele growth and new brain tissue, it is clear to see how exercise both relieves negative mood and undoes the damage caused by it. 

If you have made it this far then I thank you for taking the time to read and I hope you are able to benefit from the information!

If you ever want to know more about this topic don’t hesitate to contact me, this was a large research area for me during college. 

  • Kyle


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