We've all heard that exercise is good for your mental health, and the age-old wisdom behind this statement holds truer than ever. Beyond its well documented physical benefits, regular physical activity plays a vital role in supporting and enhancing our mental wellbeing. In this blog, we will delve into five essential ways that exercise positively impacts our mental health, offering you even more reasons to lace up those runners and get moving. So, if you need some motivation to prioritise your physical health and mental wellness, read on to discover the powerful connections between exercise and mental wellbeing.
1. Improves Mood
One of the most immediate and noticeable benefits of exercise on mental health is its mood-boosting effects. When you engage in physical activity, your brain releases endorphins, which are often referred to as "feel good" hormones. These endorphins create a natural high, reducing stress and promoting a sense of happiness and relaxation. Regular exercise has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, making it a powerful tool for combating mood disorders.
2. Stimulates Creative and Flexible Thinking
Exercise is not only about physical fitness; it's also a workout for your brain. When you're active, your brain experiences increased blood flow and oxygen, which enhances cognitive function. This boost in brainpower can lead to more creative and flexible thinking. Whether you're tackling a complex problem at work or simply looking for creative inspiration, exercise can help you think outside the box and find new solutions to challenges.
3. Protects Cognitive Function
As we age, cognitive decline becomes a concern for many. However, regular exercise can serve as a powerful defense mechanism against age-related cognitive decline. Studies have shown that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of conditions like Alzheimer's disease and dementia. This protective effect is due to exercise's ability to promote neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to adapt and reorganise itself, and the creation of new brain cells.
4. Aids in Decision Making and Planning
The ability to make sound decisions and plan effectively is a fundamental aspect of good mental health. Exercise can significantly enhance your cognitive function, allowing you to make better choices and organise your thoughts more effectively. This is particularly important in high-stress situations where clear thinking and efficient decision-making are crucial. Regular exercise can give you the mental edge you need to tackle life's challenges.
5. Boosts Memory and Recall
If you find yourself frequently forgetting names, appointments, or where you left your keys, exercise might be the solution you've been looking for. Physical activity has a positive impact on memory and recall. It stimulates the production of neurotrophic factors, which are essential for long-term memory. Furthermore, exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, a brain region associated with memory and learning. By engaging in regular exercise, you can sharpen your memory and boost your ability to recall information.
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is a powerful and natural way to enhance your mental health. Not only does it improve your mood, stimulate creative thinking, and enhance and protect cognitive function, but it also aids in decision making, planning, and memory recall. The benefits of exercise extend far beyond physical fitness, making it an essential component of a holistic approach to mental wellbeing. So, the next time you're feeling stressed or struggling with a complex problem, consider taking a break and going for a run, walk, or weights session – your mind will thank you.
Feeling inspired to embrace exercise and start feeling the positive effects on your mental health as well as your physical. Come on down to Simply Stronger, where our exercise physiologists can help you to build an exercise plan that works for you. We work with you, taking a holistic approach to your health. Looking at not only what exercises will help to support your physical and mental wellbeing, but also how best to use this exercise to fit into your life. We are all unique and deserve an approach that support you as a whole person.
This April Falls month we have been talking a lot about our balance. We have spoken about how important it is that we maintain our balance throughout our lives and improve it where we can. On our socials we have shown you different ways that to challenge it, and how to incorporate it into daily life, without the need for any specialised equipment. Now we are going to talk about what our “balance” really is.
When it comes to balance, we have three sensory components that work together to influence our balance. These being our Vestibular system, our Visual system, and our Proprioception. Now, you may or may not have heard of these terms before. Often our clients have heard of some of them but don't really understand them. So we will explain what each of them are, what they actually mean within your body, and how they work together to impact your balance?
Firstly, I like to describe them to my clients as “pillars”. With a foundation of strength they all work together to support our balance. If one of these components is disrupted, our balance as a whole gets impacted, or we put more dependence on our other “pillars”. Which can work for a while to help maintain our balance, but it will certainly leave you more vulnerable in the future.
So, what do these pillars actually do?
The first of these sensory system is our vestibular system. Found within our inner ear, this system tells our brain about our spacial orientation and head position. To put it simply our vestibular system reports if our ears are level. Which is why when people have an ear infection their balance can be affected.
An example of this in balance, is the sensors in our feet and ankles reacting to the changes in our position when standing on one leg. This is then more pronounced when we move from a stable surface to unstable as shown above. You may have felt this yourself when practicing your own balance.
Finally, our visual system is one of our most used pillars, and the one we often unintentionally over time place the most dependence on. We use the information we gather through our eyes to determine where we are in space to keep us upright and to correct any changes to our body position.
It is my belief that over the years our over reliance on our visual system allows the other two sensory systems to be detrained rather than deteriorating and therefore gives us every opportunity to retrain them.
How to improve your balance
We all need to incorporate some balance training into our everyday activities to ensure we don't detrain the pillars we need to remain upright and safe. If you are unsure of how best to challenge and improve your balance, begin by checking out our socials on facebook and instagram for some tips, or book to see one of our exercise specialists today.
The balance testing, we do here at Simply Stronger allows us to determine which “pillar” we should target to have the greatest impact or your balance.
Optimising all three of these sensory components along with improving your foundational strength gives us the best opportunity to improve our balance and reduce the risk of fall and subsequent injuries.
Osteoporosis and Osteopenia are common conditions that revolve around bone density loss, making our bones more fragile and susceptible to fractures, but what does that really mean?
Changes can occur within our bones that impacts their strength and health. This can be natural hormonal changes as we age, or heightened through ongoing and prolonged use of certain medications such as steroids, among others. The inside of healthy bones have a similar make up to that of a violet crumble chocolate bar, a spongey and honeycomb like structure. As our bones weaken, the "pockets" enlarge like larger air bubbles in the honeycomb, reducing the density of the boney structure and therefore the strength of our bones.
These conditions are often called the "silent disease" because they are typically asymptomatic until a fracture occurs. As I am sure you can imagine fractures can cause significant pain, reduced mobility, and decreased independence. It's crucial that we take steps to prevent and manage these conditions to keep us moving the way we want as we get older.
So how do we prevent bone density loss from occurring?
Exercise is an essential component of prevention and management, and there are many options available. Weight-bearing and impact exercises, like walking or jogging, are particularly beneficial as they can help to build and maintain our bone density. Resistance exercises can also be effective in improving bone density and our overall strength. While balance exercises are another integral component to reduce the risk of fractures by reducing the risk of falls in the first place.
One study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that only 44% of Australians aged 65 and over meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. We have talked about the guidelines in an earlier blog post, but incase you missed it here is a recap. We should all be aiming for a minimum of 150-300 minutes of aerobic exercise plus two resistance training sessions per week. The fact that only 44% of Australian meet this base level of activity is concerning because regular exercise is the best way for us to keep our bones and muscles strong and improve our balance and coordination, which can reduce the risk of falls and subsequent fractures. Not to mention, it's a great way to stay active and social.
Osteoporosis and Osteopenia are serious conditions, but exercise plays a significant role in prevention and management. By staying active, we can help keep our bones strong and healthy, reduce our risk of fractures, and improve our overall quality of life.
So, are you currently meeting the physical activity guidelines? Are you getting enough impact and weight bearing exercises into your daily life? Are your bones as healthy and strong as they could be?
If the answer is no to any of these questions then it is time to consider what you are going to do about it.
Simply Stronger is here to help. As experts in exercise prescription we can help tailor an exercise program that helps set you up for years to come, because your health is an investment worth making.
Keep a look out on our socials in Facebook and Instagram for some great balance tips this April Falls Month as well as some more information around Osteoporosis and Osteopenia.
Want to know more about how and Exercise Physiologist can help you reach our health goals, get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us 03 9964 3889 or you can book directly here.
If I asked you to close you eyes and picture an older adult, what do you see? Commonly we imagine someone who requires a walking aid, who has lost a lot of muscle, they may be stooped forward, looking frail and overall is moving with some difficulty. With images like this in our minds, even if we don't see this as our future, allow us to unconsciously accept changes in our bodies as inevitable.
How often have your heard "Well, you're getting older." or something similar.
I'm here to say that it does not have to be that way.
While we can't stop or even slow ourselves from ageing, we can impact how we age. Just because the number of years you have been on this earth continues to increase, doesn’t mean you need to lose your function and fitness. Yes things will change, so does life. The trick is to adapt with the change.
Did you know that fitness is defined as: Ones ability to perform their daily tasks or ADLs (activities of daily living). Our ADLs change throughout our lives. As a child you are learning to move, stand and walk. When you are a teenager your ADLs may involve playing different sports, running around and playing with friends. As we get older this continues to change, perhaps your day requires the ability to sit and concentrate for several hours at a time, or to run around with kids or even grand kids. Not to mention all the tasks involved in running a house; cooking, cleaning, gardening and self care. All of these requirements change throughout our lives along with your fitness. Remember your fitness is your ability to complete your ADLs.
While our body does go through many changes as we age, our daily requirements also change and therefore our fitness requirements. Take a moment and consider how your requirements have changed over the years and how they will continue to change? Acknowledging this change can help us to focus in on the areas of our fitness that need some attention.
The truth is that many of us don't give a lot of thought to the requirements of our fitness until we suddenly find something has become harder. Then we tell ourselves things like, that is the price of getting older. Well I am here to tell you it wasn't a sudden change but something that has been coming for some time and could likely have been avoided by keeping fitter.
The great news is it is never too late to improve your fitness!
The exercise and physicals activity guidelines were designed for this very purpose, to help Australians maintain their fitness. They will help you to maintain and improve your strength, endurance, and overall function.
When you are ready to delve a little deeper, working with an Exercise Physiologist (EP) will help you progress even further, faster. Exercise allows us to get strong, stay strong to keep doing the things you want to do along with the things we just need to do, like getting out of bed. An EP can help tailor the exercise around your personal needs as they grow and change. Choosing targeted exercises to suit you.
I like to think that age is not a burden I need to carry, but a privilege not afforded to everyone. Every time I exercise I am investing in my future health and fitness. Helping me to move easier tomorrow.
Invest in yourself, you're worth the effort.
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Simply Stronger - here to make exercise simple. Understanding why you should exercise is a giant step towards wanting to exercise.