This is your brain on exercise

Taking the time to move for your mental well-being

Exercise is frequently discussed in terms of its physical benefits, but its psychological benefits are often forgotten. Exercise can have psychological benefits, which many people are unaware of, and can have a positive impact one’s overall well-being.

When a person exercises, there are both short-term and long-term benefits. According to Wendy Suzuki, professor of neural science and psychology at the Center for Neural Science at New York University, individuals will feel a mood and energy boost immediately after exercising. Long-term effects of exercise include the ability to focus for longer, improved long-term memory, better mood and increased energy. Chelsey Wheaton, a fourth-year psychology student, finds that exercise boosts her mood when she is feeling down and it’s a great break from school work. Perhaps this is because you don’t have to focus on anything except your workout. “When I don’t exercise, I feel like I have less energy,” Wheaton said.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), regular physical exercise can reduce depression and anxiety. “Exercising has helped with stress and anxiety because it keeps you focused in the moment,” said Alexa Mutch, a fourth-year history and English major. “I often find myself not thinking about other things going on outside of the gym.” Taking the time out of your day to decompress can help you manage stress, which is very beneficial as students in particular tend to live in quite stressful environments.

A common question about the benefits of exercise is, how much exercise do I need to get in order to receive these benefits? The good news is you don’t have to become a triathlete or a marathon runner. Suzuki suggests that exercising three to four times a week with a minimum of 30 minutes per session is sufficient. During your sessions, aerobic exercises that increase your heart rate are recommended. Fortunately, you do not need an expensive gym membership to achieve these benefits. A simple walk during your day or taking the stairs when they are available are simple but great ways to increase your heart rate.

While it is important to recognize that exercise can help reduce depression, anxiety and a variety of other conditions, if you find yourself struggling with these issues, Mount Allison University does have services available for students. The Wellness Centre offers counselling by appointment, as well as walk-in counselling from 1 to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays and from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. There are also psychologists and a psychiatrist, to whom students can be referred by a health-care practitioner.

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