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July 17, 2012Posted in: Programs & Resources Tagged:

Is Exercise Good for Your Mental Health?

If you have TS, you may also have another condition like as anxiety, depression, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These conditions are treatable in most cases, through a regiment of either therapy and/or medication. But what about exercise? We know that exercising regularly is good for our physical health; does it help with mental health as well? What does the research say? Read on to learn more. Depression & Exercise Depression is an extremely common condition, and not surprisingly, research strongly points to possible effects of exercise on depression. Several academic studies conclude that exercise is a good preventative strategy in that it helps reduce the risk of depression in both adolescents and adults. One Netherlands-based study based even found that it doesn’t take much to reap the mental benefits of physical fitness. The study found that for people with physically undemanding jobs, like an office job, all it takes to reduce the risk of depression and emotional exhaustion is strenuous exercise once or twice a week. Exercise helps to prevent depression, but can it also be used to treat the condition? According to a recent analysis of several studies on this topic, there is not enough high quality research to support the claim that exercise reduces depression symptoms. However, there are some preliminary supportive findings, so it may very well be that exercise does help. Does exercise also help with other mental health conditions? According to PhDs Jerome Sarris, David Camfield and Michael Berk, the answer is possibly. In their 2011 article, “Complementary medicine, self-help and lifestyle interventions for OCD,” the authors say that there is some evidence that exercise can help reduce obsessions and compulsions, but not enough to make a firm conclusion. Gapin et al. (2011) came to a similar conclusion in their study of exercise and ADHD. They found some evidence that exercise helps with behaviour and cognitive functioning in people with ADHD, but they were ultimately inconclusive. Another interesting question is whether people with mental health challenges actually want to exercise. According to Mind, a UK charity, 83% of individuals with mental health problems use exercise to improve their mood and/or reduce stress and two-thirds of them say that exercise helps their condition. The science So how does this work exactly? Well, exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, causing the release of endorphins, a mood-enhancing chemical. Norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin—all mood-lifting chemicals that usually decrease during depression—also increase when we exercise. Some studies suggest that there is a link between levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, (another mood-enhancer) and exercise. There is also some recent evidence suggesting that exercise can increase brain plasticity meaning that it can improve cognitive functioning. Psychologists add that exercise improves mood because it increases a person’s sense of physical self-worth, self-esteem and gives people a more positive body image. How to Get Exercising Today

  • Getting fit isn’t as complicated or as costly as you may think. You can bike, run or walk outside—for free! To start with, try walking or biking to work or school
  • You will likely find reasonably priced fitness programs offered by your local YMCAs and community centres if you are willing to spend some money
  • Keep your eyes peeled for special deals! For example, Good Life Fitness is currently offering their facilities to teens for free this summer!: http://www.goodlifefitness.com/teenfitness/

To learn more about physical fitness, check out the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website and online fact sheets: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/pa-ap/index-eng.php

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