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Exercise & Mental Health

Thursday, April 1, 2021
Posted by: Brenda Boyd

Recently, one of my clients (I’ll call her Billie Jo) approached me and told me that her therapist noticed she’s been happier the last few months. After they chatted a while and went through Billie Jo's schedule and activities, they came to the realization that her work outs with a trainer twice a week have changed much more than her body.

Billie Jo has trained throughout the pandemic (happy anniversary, Billie Jo!) either virtually or socially-distanced at the park, and told me that the work outs make her feel good and that she’s even starting to enjoy them. On top of that, she’s sleeping well at night and feels like she’s in a better place mentally.

Can exercise really improve mental health?

Exercise releases endorphins, also known as your body’s “feel good neurotransmitters.” These babies reduce the perception of pain AND improve overall well-being.

Exercise is also the number one way to increase BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) production.
When you exercise and your heart rate starts to elevate, the brain thinks you are under stress, and it releases the protein BDNF. Recent studies by the CDC have shown that BDNF enhances memory, speeds up reaction times, improves attention, and alleviates depression. Both cardiovascular and strength training can help elevate BDNF which means that exercise not only helps you look good, but it can improve your mental outlook and boost your brain power. 
 

When you set a fitness goal such as one pull up, a push up on toes, losing a dress size, or finally nailing that yoga pose (and follow through) it helps build your self esteem, which is definitely a mental health bonus as well. Exercising 2-3 times a week for thirty minutes in low to moderate intensity greatly benefits your physical health AND your mental health.  

If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to me at bboyd@erjcchouston.org, and together we can create a workout program that suits you. 

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