This is the one daily habit that will protect your mental health.
Today’s article comes from Max Jacobs, founder of Brain Performance PT.
Your mental health is arguably one of the most important things you can look after. I think it’s fair to say that your brain controls everything you do, how you feel and what you accomplish throughout life. Therefore it can be seen that a healthy mind will give you the best possible foundation to tackle anything.
However, statistically speaking if you are between the age of 18 and 24 you have a 1 in 5 chance of developing a mental health problem or disorder, which is the highest prevalence among any age group. It is clear from these stats that we need to be proactive in keeping a healthy mind…
…one of the best ways to do this is through exercise. In this article we will discuss a range of topics relating to exercise and its effects on mental health including: exercise as a medicine, evolutionary perspective and exercise programming.
Exercise as a Medicine
‘Exercise is widely regarded as a major component of a healthy lifestyle, with specific effects seen in terms of brain function and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases’. (ref)
‘Although an active lifestyle has always been recognized as the best way to achieve health in the entire history of civilization, over the last two decades, the concept of exercise as medicine, or as a preventive method, became increasingly accepted. Some authors consider physical exercise as a “polypill” that, besides many benefits in preventing and treating several diseases, has the advantage of not generating adverse responses and of being a low cost alternative compared to drugs, surgeries, and hospitalizations’ (ref).
As you can see from the above, it is no secret that exercise is good for you and is now being accepted as a form of medicine due to the positive effects it has on the body and mind.
However while a lot of people understand that exercise is a great way to be proactive and even reactive to mental health conditions, many choose not to take action. Perhaps it’s because we just don’t think it could ever happen to us or that we believe there is going to be a new magical pill to cure all our problems. The fact of the matter is that our bodies are made to move and we need to be physically active so that we can live a long and happy life. If you are finding it hard to get up and exercise or incorporate physical activity into your weekly schedule, I suggest thinking about the benefits that it will bring you.
‘A look into our evolutionary past indicates that our genome remains unchanged from the times of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, whose active lifestyle predominated throughout almost 100% of humankind’s existence’.
From an evolutionary perspective we are made to move. However due to recent technological advances and our relatively sedentary lifestyle, we are negatively affecting the health of our bodies and brains.
It seems ironic that while engineers are designing and constructing machines to improve our quality of life, these same machines are decreasing our need to be physically active and therefore increasing our risk of developing mental health conditions. Next time you drive your car to work consider:
If it is too far, consider parking further from work so that you walk the remainder. Doing this will save you money and increase your physical activity levels, resulting in improved mental health. Remember, always think about the benefits.
The majority of studies about exercise and mental health have focused on moderate aerobic exercise but there are also studies showing the benefits of resistance training. Therefore it makes sense to include a mixture of both aerobic and resistance training in your exercise program. This program should be tailored to suit your primary goals (e.g. prevent mental health decline) and your secondary goals (e.g. lose fat).
It is important to remember that every little bit counts when it comes to becoming more physically active as you build up to the recommended 150-300 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.
Your mental health is arguably the most important thing you can look after. Our bodies and mind have evolved to require physical activity to stimulate a cascade of physiological processes that are critical to improving your mental health. Try to include a mixture of aerobic and resistance training and always think about the benefits exercise can bring you. Remember that every little bit counts.
My name is Max Jacobs and I’m the founder of Brain Performance Personal Training. I believe exercise is the key to unlocking your full potential. If you are interested in exercise and the positive effects it can have on your brain performance and mental health, come check out my website, Facebook & LinkedIn Page.
About Dr Sarah
I’m an Oxford University-educated neuroscientist, presenter of ABC Catalyst, director of The Neuroscience Academy, and author of The Women's Brain Book. The neuroscience of health, hormones and happiness.
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