Exercise & Mental Health - Depression, Stress & Memory:

This past weekend my daughter and I took part in our first ever virtual running race. Now if you are new to virtual running, it's like an organised running event except that instead of turning up to the start line on a specific day and time, you have much more flexibility as to when you do it. Our race was the Magnificent 5km organised by Zoom Virtual Races and we had to complete the run and then send evidence of having done it to the organisers before the end of February. 

As well as the advantage of flexibility, it's a great way for me to spend some healthy, active time with my daughter. If you've been reading my blogs for a while you'll know that we regularly run the Ely Festive 5k each year although, given the cold this weekend, I wish I'd stuck my fake Santa beard on my face to add some extra warmth! It was freezing cold! And for some reason I decided that the best place for us to run was in a muddy field where the strong wind came howling into us around every corner!   

Now I'm a great lover of exercise as I know it benefits my mental health and physical health. My long standing leg injury means I've turned more to bootcamp over the last year (and I love it!) and if nothing else, yesterday was more evidence that my leg injury hasn't yet subsided as much as I'd hoped. But never mind, because there is still much to benefit mental health even where there are some activities that are more challenging than others.

In fact, a lot of research has demonstrated the power of exercise to boost our mental health and I've got a few examples that are worth taking a look at in this article.

Mental Health and Exercise

While out doing our run, we took a couple of minutes to record this short vlog. Please do trust me when I say that no matter how sunny it may look in the video it was icy cold there in that field! You'll be able to hear the wind howling around us in the video that you can watch by clicking on this image: 

mental health and exercise hypnotherapy ely newmarketExercise & Mental Health - Watch on You Tube

As I mentioned above and in the video, there is recent research that suggests just how beneficial exercise can be for our mental health (and that's aside from the physical benefits that come from being active too).

For example, one recent research report suggests that running may protect our memory from the impact of stress. When we experience chronic stress it can impact on our memory and ability to learn. Researchers found that exercise, particulary running, could protect the brain from the effects of chronic stress on the brain. As the researchers put it, 'exercise is a viable method to protect learning and memory mechanisms from the negative cognitive impact of chronic intermittent stress on the brain.'

Another recent study has suggested that exercise could help prevent depression and manage the symptoms of depression. The study involved 33,908 adults who were selected on the basis of having no symptoms of common mental disorder or limiting physical health conditions. The study followed these adults over a period of eleven years. They found that taking regular exercise was associated with reduced incidence of future depression but not anxiety. Interestingly, they reported that the majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity. That is, according to this study, even small amounts of exercise can deliver benefits. (According to the researchers an hour or more per week may prevent future depression).

That report concluded that 'regular leisure-time exercise of any intensity provides protection against future depression but not anxiety. Relatively modest changes in population levels of exercise may have important public mental health benefits and prevent a substantial number of new cases of depression.'

And as if that wasn't enough good stuff for mental health and exercise, there is also a report that suggests that exercise may keep our brains healthier for longer as we age. More good stuff if we want to try and maintain cognitive functioning into our old ages. 

All in all, there is much growing evidence for getting out there and being active, isn't there? Now of course, my responsible head is reminding me to mention that if you have concerns about your physical or mental health then you may want to speak to your doctor before commencing any exercise programme. And, if you need help with confidence or motivation around exercise then you may want to book in for a chat about how I can help you with that. 

With so much anecdotal evidence for the mental health benefits of exercise, combined with the growing body of research supporting the benefits, there has never been more reason to get active or stay active (and why not look up those virtual races too to give yourself the motivation and a sense of purpose). 

Right, I'm off to doing some stretches with my leg to make sure I'm good to go for bootcamp tonight and to get myself some of those positive impacts from exercise. 

To your health and happiness,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket 

 

References:

1) Running exercise mitigates the negative consequences of chronic stress on dorsal hippocampa long-term potentiation in male mice. Published in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

2) Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study. Published in American Journal of Psychiatry.

3) Effect of aerobic exercise on hippocampal volume in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Published in NeuroImage.