The Pursuit of Happiness: Fitness and it’s Role in Mental Health

I’m heading to Montreal this week for a few speaking engagements on exercise and it’s role in the treatment of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.  Blitz has been privileged to work with some local physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists in developing treatments for mental illnesses and we want to spread the word. We’ve all experienced the mental benefits of exercise whether it is providing more energy, stress relief, greater self image, or a slew of other things it’s one of the best natural drugs you can take.  What we may not realize is the overwhelming amount of changes to our brains undergo as we maintain an active lifestyle and how this is applied to mental health.

A staggering 21.3% of Canadians that will suffer from mental illnesses over their lifetimes and an estimated cost of around $14 billion dollars annually is spent in treatment around the world.  Mental illnesses affect families, workplaces, and communities so it can’t be seen as a personal issue.  It is a complex one too.  It is a group of illnesses in which the interaction between a person’s genetics and environment that ultimately lead to their surfacing in a person.  When we talk about environment we mean a multitude of things in a person’s life: location, work, family, friends, nutrition, and activity levels and the list can go on.  Brett was recently interviewed about the decreased activity levels in teenagers but we should also be aware of its strong association with the rise in mental illnesses.

I’ll be talking about how exercise should be included in any mental health treatment for the following reasons:

1) Hormesis: it’s been shown that the breakdown of muscle fibres during exercise increases the production of antioxidants and repairs damaged DNA.  This leads to a decrease in diseases like athreosclerosis, heart diseases, and mental illnesses.  It also serves to increase your immune system!

Deslandes, A, Moraes, H, Ferreira, C, et. al. Exercise and Mental Health: Many Reasons to Move.  Neuropsychobiology, 2009, 59. 

2) Reduces social withdrawal and weight gain: Exercise decreases social withdrawal and weight gain from sedentary behaviour and the side effects of some mental health drugs.  Blitz is passionate about creating communities focused on positive change in people.  We serve as the place of change not only for physical health but for mental health too.
3)  Increases Self-Esteem and Cognitive Function: Although exercise has never been directly linked to an increase in self-esteeem the progressive adoption of a healthy lifestyle and learning new skills leads to its improvement.  When we exercise, we also learn how our bodies move in different ranges of motion.  Our brains become more aware of our bodies and we are also able to learn new skills.
4) Mastery of New Skills:  As we exercise adopt new skills.  This is positive re-inforcement for our brains and it also gives us the ability to take on more skills that aren’t just fitness related.
We want to open up the eyes of the medical community in these speaking engagements and encourage them to prescribe more exercise to patients.  Anything from a simple 5 minute walk a day to begin and then adding more as time progresses is an excellent way to begin.   Exercise is a drug with almost no negative side effects.  It’s our hope that more people are encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle in compliment to any treatment with the intent to life an intentional life.
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About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned personal trainer and natural bodybuilder who’s passionate about helping my clients create a fitness lifestyle and reach their health goals. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

Comments

  1. Have fun in Montreal, Chris. I can’t think of anybody better to talk about exercise and mental health!!

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