NEW YORK TIMES – LIFE/STYLE – When Jennifer Hayes was in grad school, she borrowed an old, rusty bike from a friend – and ended up redirecting her career. At that time, she was studying Cognitive NeuroscienceUnhappy with the direction of her work and personal life, she began to experience what she now considers to be “extremely intense anxiety,” she told me recently. Her friend suggested cycling as a convenience. Not being very athletic before, she started pedaling with enthusiasm, finding it “calms my mind,” she said.
This discovery convinced her to change the focus of her research. now manager Neurovit Lab from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, studying The interaction between physical and emotional health and how Playing sports It helps prevent or treat depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health conditions.
“The effects of movement on the mind are very profound and fascinating,” Hays said.
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This idea refreshes his new book, Move the body, heal the mind (Move the body, heal the mind), which separates The latest science in exercise and Psychological healthas well as his journey from lethargy and serial emotional meltdowns to triple training and increased serenity.
I recently spoke with Heisz about his book and what it can tell us about mental health, the benefits of light exercise, the stress of the pandemic years, and how to choose the right exercise now to lift your spirits. Here’s our edited chat.
Can we talk about exercise and the anxiety so many of us feel these days?
Exercising is very beneficial for reducing anxiety. In fact, at the end of each workout, you usually get a short relief from anxiety, due to neuropeptide Y, which increases with exercise. It is a flexibility factor. It helps calm the anxious amygdala, the part of the brain that recognizes danger and puts us on high alert. In recent years, with the pandemic, our amygdala has been overly alert, resulting in a near-constant response to stress. This chronic stress starts to make our minds really scared and leaves you with constant anxiety. Exercise, by regulating neuropeptide Y, helps calm the anxious amygdala, reduce fear and hyper-vigilance, and keep us calmer.
What specific type of exercise?
The great thing is that light to moderate exercise, such as walking, is sufficient. Research from my lab shows that this type of exercise reduces anxiety immediately after exercise, and over time, if you keep exercising, reduces anxiety even more and for longer. About 30 minutes of this type of exercise three times a week seems to be fine. Walking, biking, swimming, dancing – a variety of activities run.
How about intense workouts?
You should be careful with intense exercise and anxiety. If you are anxious, you are already under stress. High-intensity exercise is also a type of stress. But our bodies in general have only one stress response. So during intense exercise, you are adding extreme physical stress to the stress your body is already feeling and it can become too much. Right before the pandemic, I was training for a triathlon and doing a lot of high-intensity workouts. But when the pandemic started, I was feeling so emotionally stressed that I couldn’t finish these workouts. So I backed off. What I would say to people is that when you are already feeling stressed, intense exercise may not be the right choice.
What do you advise people to do?
Aim to do exercises that feel comfortable challenging, so that your heart rate rises but does not speed up. For many people, that might mean taking a quick walk around the park or around the building.
Do exercises help in the same way against depression?
classic, Depression is caused by a lack of serotonin in the braintreated by antidepressants. But for some people with depression, medications don’t work as well, possibly because serotonin isn’t their problem. Many of us who study depression now believe that the problem may involve stress-related inflammation. Inflammation begins to damage the body’s cells, triggering an immune response and increased inflammation, which can then enter the brain, affecting mood. For these people, exercise may be the medication they need as it helps fight inflammation. In studies, when individuals who did not respond to antidepressants start exercising, they often notice a significant reduction in their symptoms.
How much exercise are we talking about?
A study looking at how often or how much exercise you need to fight depression compared 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week, the standard exercise recommendation for physical health, to a quarter of that. The two groups benefited equally. So the exercise prescription for mental health seems less than the exercise prescription for physical health, which is great.
You talk candidly in your book about episodes of anxiety, stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, including after the birth of your daughter and later your divorce. Did exercise help you deal with it?
It’s the key. Mental illness can happen to anyone, even people who seem to be coping well. For me and many, life transitions such as divorce and childbirth can be especially difficult. After my divorce, I really needed something to redirect my life. And I learned how vigorous exercise, as a motivator, changes the brain. Someone mentioned triathlons. I was still cycling at the time. So I added running and swimming. / LÍVIA BUELONI GONAALVES . translation
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