How exercise can improve your mental wellness
As nations northern latitude experience a particularly gloomy January, many may be wondering what they can do to give their mental wellness a boost.
Catherine Sabiston, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE), says physical exercise is one potentially important strategy.
“If people can engage in small bouts of physical activity throughout the day—even just a minute or two at a time—and build up to 10 to 20 minutes per day, that is beneficial,” she recommends.
Sabiston directs KPE’s Mental Health and Physical Activity Research Center (MPARC). The center studies the connections between physical activity and mental health, and develops and evaluates interventions to promote physical activity and mental wellness among people who are at risk of inactivity and mental health problems.
Our brains are responsible for many of the processes that make us feel, think and act. When we are physically active, we improve these systems through increases in cellular and molecular processes—cerebral blood flow, circulation of neurotropic factors, a cascade of cellular mechanisms that positively affect the function of many brain regions.
When we are physically active, we are also increasing the temperature of our bodies, and feeling warmer makes us feel comforted and safe. Warmth and comfort that result from being physically active are foundational to mental health and, specifically, taking care of ourselves.
Also, as humans we were meant to be more active than we are currently. If you think back to our ancestors, the hunters, the gatherers, their days were filled with moving and working for all of their needs. Since we have become more sedentary, our brains love it when we are actually active, it brings us to a level of activity where we were meant to be. This is a homeostasis of sorts where our activity level matches our natural intent as humans.
Source: University of Toronto