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The Greatest Mental Health Drug in the World

Studies have shown that this remedy can lower depressive symptoms better than anti-depressants. It has also been found to increase your level of attention, immediately lift your mood and to cause euphoria for some. And finally, it also reduces our risk of several physical health diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and inflammation. And best of all, this magical treatment is free. If you haven’t yet guessed it yet, we’re talking about exercise.

Why exercise is important:

What people might not know is that exercise causes increased cerebral blood flow in the grey matter of both hemispheres of the brain, which of course, increases brain activity. When one is depressed, there is a lack of activity in the brain. Exercise does the opposite. The reason exercise has been found to influence mood is because it alters the release of serotonin in the brain, which is also known as our happy hormone. Our brains needed to be exercised as much as our bodies and exercise benefits this also. There is also science behind exercise leading to a clearer mind. Exercise has been found to reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, reduce the excretion of cortisol (stress hormone) and increase the production of endorphins. This explains the ‘runner’s high’. In fact, one study by Keller actually found that 10 weeks of aerobic exercise resulted in lower scores on a stress task compared to yoga meditation. As a result, exercise has also been found to be extremely beneficial for anxiety symptoms.

Based on psychological theory, one of Anna Freud’s defence mechanisms is sublimation, which involves the transformation of negative cathartic energy towards something beneficial. Anger is an emotion expressed through the physiological change of an increase of energy, which can also be managed through exercise. Furthermore, when someone is angry, they are emotional hijacked, as explained in the anger post. Neuropsychiatrist Dan Siegel demonstrates that movement has been found to keep the connection between the emotional and thinking brain or upstairs and downstairs brain, meaning that a quick burst of exercise can cool both children and adults and make them more rational when they’re feeling overly emotional. In cognitive behavioural therapy, a form helpful thinking is to keep your mind busy or distracted and a great way to do this is also exercise. When in groups, it also forms connections and it also often involves getting our of the house. The benefits are endless.

Types of exercise:

There are three types of exercise: 1) Aerobic, which involves long periods of physical movement, such as running, cycling and swimming.

2) Anaerobic, which involves high intensity work over short periods such as weightlifting or sprints.

3) Flexibility, co-ordination and relaxation.

It is recommended that we should be getting a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise a week according to the MAYO clinic. This should vary between the three types of exercise. However, it is also important to be weary of falling into addictive habits of exercise. John Raglin emphasises the over-training can lead to psychopathology and decreased mood. In our workshops, we emphasise that ten minutes of rigorous exercise (anaerobic exercise that gets your heart racing) combined with plenty of movement such as walking and cycling places (aerobic exercise) rather than taking lifts and using stairs rather than taking escalators and elevators is generally enough. We also highlight the importance of rest days and stretching/movement days. It is also important to emphasise that people can be active without playing sports. For example, dance, walking, yoga etc.

In summary, if exercise was a newly discovered drug, it would be the most sought after treatment in the world. But it’s not, so use it! Yours Sincerely, The Motus Movement.


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