Movement Is The Best Therapy

From Malora’s Desk

I’ve noticed how the word “exercise” gets a reaction from people – from those who love their daily dose of endorphins, to those with a strained “I try” look, to the guilty and pained “I couldn’t be bothered” look, to those with an expression of absolute dread.

Whatever your relationship with exercise is, I would like to highlight the known benefits of daily activity (and no, unfortunately typing on your keyboard or selecting a Netflix show does not count as exercise).

We all know that there are physical benefits to exercise, such as weight control, increased energy, lower blood pressure and reduced risk of a number of diseases. But how many of you are aware of the psychological benefits exercise provides? Here are a few:

  • Decreased Stress Increasing your heart rate can actually reverse stress-induced brain damage by stimulating the production of certain hormones, which improve our thinking and mood that might be clouded by stressful events. Exercise also forces the body’s nervous systems to communicate with one another, improving the body’s overall ability to respond to stress.
  • Assists with depression and anxietyExercise is a scientifically proven mood booster, decreasing symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Physical activity kicks up endorphin levels, the body’s famous “feel good” chemical produced by the brain and spinal cord that produces feelings of happiness and euphoria. Even moderate exercise, throughout the week, can improve depression and anxiety, so much so that some doctors and therapists recommend trying out an exercise regimen for these conditions before turning to medication.
  • Increased self-esteem From improving endurance to losing weight and increasing muscle tone, there’s no shortage of physical achievements that come about from regular exercise. All those successes add up to a whopping boost of self-esteem, and the confidence that comes with it.
  • Gives you a brain boostFrom building intelligence to strengthening memory, exercise boosts brainpower in a number of ways. Studies indicate that cardiovascular exercise creates new brain cells—a process called neurogenesis—and improve overall brain performance. It also prevents cognitive decline and memory loss; physical activity also boosts creativity and mental energy.
  • Helps you sleep betterIf you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, exercise can help with that, too. Physical activity increases body temperature, which can have calming effects on the mind, leading to less sheep-counting and more shuteye. Exercise also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, our bodies’ built-in alarm clock that controls when we feel tired and when we feel alert. (Although improved sleep is a psychological benefit of exercise, sleep experts recommend not exercising close to bedtime).

You don’t need to become a gym bunny or marathon runner to benefit. Simply aim to fit in at least an hour a day where you can increase your heart rate and get your body moving:

Create walk/run groups to motivate yourselves, or a join a social sports team, take a walk around your neighbourhood (guided walk if in the bush!), start ‘Geocaching’… there are so many options! For those of you who have Garmin or Strava apps, how about a fitness challenge with your colleagues for some friendly competition. For those in camps, you may need to get creative, but it’s possible! There are also plenty of free exercise videos out there, here are some ideas to get you started:

April will be dedicated to physical wellbeing, and we hope that this month will inspire you to find or maintain a healthy balance. Please share your favourite fitness tips or resources with us!