Move more - why movement is good for your mind
Taking care of the body is taking care of the mind. Continuing with the theme of taking care of ourselves in order to look after our mind this article considers the importance of movement, often described in the literature as “activity”.
Messages abound in the NHS and media telling us that we need to have 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.
Often these messages are accompanied by talk of “endorphins” and other happy hormones that describe exercise as the miracle cure for all of life’s ailments. This might not be everyone’s experience with exercise. Often it can feel boring or difficult and some might find they are not getting the results they expect. Hopefully, this article will provide an introduction to the benefits of moving.
With the advancement of modern technology, our lives have never been so convenient. This, however, comes at a cost. As a species, we spend far more time sedentary (sat down or not moving) than we did in the past. This in combination with the increase of modern stress, our rich processed diets, and irregular sleep patterns mean we put our internal systems under incredible strain just to keep us alive. The 2008 Disney Pixar movie WALL-E satirised this perfectly. Research for many years has linked sedentary behaviour to chronic health problems. The good news is just as this lack of movement can be detrimental for health and longevity - moving or being more active has been shown to have positive effects by reducing the risks of these conditions as well as supporting a healthy mind.
Taking part in regular moderate activity has been shown to decrease the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. Additionally, exercise has been found to be an effective treatment for depression and other mental health problems. There is evidence to suggest that taking part in exercise is good for mind health because aerobic exercise, which involves activities which increases the strength and efficiency of the heart, promotes blood flow to the brain. It also plays a part in supporting neurogenesis in the hippocampus. This literally means the regeneration of cells in this part of the brain that plays a key part in memory and emotional processing. A single session of moderate to intense exercise can boost neurochemicals which have a neuroprotective effect on the brain: increasing connectivity and positively impacting memory, attention and thinking.
The difficulty can be getting started and staying motivated to experience the benefits. There are plenty of videos on youtube and mobile apps which can support you to get started. It is also possible to exercise inexpensively using just your own body or pick up that basketball or racquet that you haven’t used for a while. If structured exercise and fitness isn’t your thing there is also evidence that just creating more opportunities in your day to move more contribute too. For example walking while on phone, or activities like gardening or housework. If you are the kind of person who needs a push consider pairing up with a friend or joining a class (physically or virtually). Having others who hold us to account can be a great way to stay committed when the sofa is calling.