Why does your Psychologist want you to exercise?

Why does your psychologist want you to exercise?  You are a busy person, and you probably work most hours of the day.

Usually, working out after a long shift is the last thing you feel like doing.  Yet, a little bit of exercise can go a long way to improving your overall quality of life.

Does my psychologist recommend this to everyone, or is it just me?

Physical exercise is a fairly common recommendation from mental health professionals.

Why?  The research on physical exercise and mental health indicates that regular workouts can greatly reduce many symptoms of depression and anxiety (for more details, see Brosse, Sheets, Lett, & Blumenthal, 2002). Therefore, your psychologist’s advice to exercise not only is normal, but is also part of providing quality care.

How does it work?

In a course at Duke University on the Health Benefits of Exercise, I learned that the hormones that are released during exercise help to stimulate the brain and maintain healthy neural connections.

In other words, you are activating regions of your brain that become tired and lazy from under use.  Exercise also promotes improved cerebral blood flow that can also help reduce your risk of stroke (see Do Lee, Folsom, & Blair, 2003).

I don’t have the time, but I still want to be healthy.  What should I do?

I recommend waking up 30-45 minutes earlier than usual to fit in a brief workout.

If you feel as though your day is too packed to shift your schedule around, maybe consider what activities are not essential or important.  You may even request that your therapist take a walk with you for one of your hour sessions.

Here are some easy beginner workout ideas that would fit in a brief 30-45 minute session:

  • Shoot hoops (great for spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination)

 

  • Jogging/walking (take a friend and have a chat)

 

  • Try some yoga videos (there are several on YouTube)

 

  • Jump rope (great if you do not have a place to run)

 

  • Stairs (if you live near a college, this is a great option)

The main idea is to get your heart pumping and work up a good sweat.  Once these sorts of workouts become too easy, try out new ones that are more challenging!

 

References

Brosse, A. L., Sheets, E. S., Lett, H. S., & Blumenthal, J. A. (2002). Exercise and the treatment of clinical depression in adults. Sports medicine, 32(12), 741-760.