We still have lots to learn about our body-mind connection but there is something that has proven true in numerous studies – the effect that physical activity has on our mental health.
Movement releases those feel-good brain chemicals – serotonin and dopamine – that make us happy. It also increases blood flow to our brain and helps it function better. Physical activity helps to build the “little grey cells,” as one of Agatha Christie’s characters would say, in our hippocampus – the area that affects memory.
All this activity in our brain, happening as a result of getting our bodies moving, does so much for us.
According to the Canadian Psychological Association, people report feeling happier when they are active. The CPA says that activity helps to prevent depression and anxiety disorders, reduce stress and cognitive decline, boost academic performance and self esteem, improve sleep and so much more.
But what should you do to achieve these results?
Much depends on our age, current level of activity along with any mobility challenges we may face. For an older adult who is sedentary, a short walk may be a good place to begin. For someone who is already active, something more strenuous would be in order.
If you are new to physical fitness and are looking to reap its mental health benefits, check in with your doctor before you begin. You may also want to consult with a personal trainer to discuss what would work best for you and how to exercise correctly.
The YMCA’s friendly certified trainers are available to help through personal training sessions or by offering free member orientations on equipment and machines to help you use them properly. For anyone with chronic illness whether it be cardiac, cancer, arthritis or some other condition, the Y offers Total Life Care (TLC), with programs tailored for the unique needs of each individual.
Y trainers have seen many “mini miracles” in those who have improved their health outcomes, and quality of life and outlook by getting active.
Whether you are starting with a walk around the block, seated yoga or a vigorous dance class, there is an activity for everyone to improve mental wellness.
Let’s get physical for our mental wellbeing!