Want a healthy brain? Join a Gym!
Do your brain a favour and sign up for our 6-week kickstart package!
•6 weeks’ unlimited personal training
•6-week healthy diet plan
•3 x designated boxercise classes
all for just £99.95
When we surveyed our members last year about their different motivations for coming to the gym, many of them mentioned improved mental health. They didn’t call it that; they cited better focus at work, coping with stress, improved mood, feeling calmer, feeling happier – all different ways of saying “improved mental health.” Our 86-year-old member, John (look out for article on John next week) said that since coming to the gym, he “felt alive again”. In fact it was the first benefit he mentioned before any of the physical improvements (of which there are many)…
We have a pretty good understanding of how physical exercise helps us: healthy blood pressure, healthy heart, lung capacity and blood pressure, controlled blood sugar, increased bone density, flexibility/mobility, joint care, energy, metabolism etc. etc. but how does it help our mental health?
- Improved self-esteem is an obvious one: when you feel and look physically healthier, you feel better about yourself;
- Restful sleep: being physically tired induces sleep, a good night’s sleep is refreshing and makes you more resilient and able to cope;
- Reduced anxiety: exercise increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress;
- Release of endorphins: Endorphins are morphine-like chemicals produced by the body that help diminish pain while triggering positive feelings – they’re called the body’s natural feel-good chemicals;
- Release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain affect mood and thinking positively;
- Distraction: exercise can be the distraction you need to break the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression;
- Company: join a class or gym where there’s interaction with the members or trainers. People who are down or depressed often feel isolated.
The mental benefits of regular exercise cannot be over-played. Several studies looking at the effect of aerobic exercise in middle-aged or older adults have reported improvements in thinking and memory, and even reduced rates of dementia.
A study of 638 people in Scotland reported here https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20010/risk_factors_and_prevention/136/physical_exercise
that asked people about their activity levels found those who were physically active at age 70 experienced less brain shrinkage over three years than those who were not.
But it’s difficult to get started with any exercise regime if you’re feeling stressed, exhausted, depressed and overwhelmed. If your self-esteem is low, you may also be facing the challenge of being the person described in our last blog about being “too embarrassed to go to the gym”.
Encourage a friend or family member to join you – or, if you’re reading this as the friend of family member of a depressed person, join something with them.
Think of exercise as a priority for your well-being – as important as taking a tablet – because,
whatever the science behind it, we know for sure that If your body feels better, your mind will too.