Exercise: the Brain-Body Phenomenon

Do you feel physically and mentally fit, or are you irritable and out of shape? Is your weight under control, and are you feeling good; or are the scales going up and your spirits down?

Research has established that there is a positive relationship between physical exercise and mental well-being. We can ask these questions of ourselves and the answers can tell us about our emotional -- as well as our physical -- well-being. If we feel physically fit, chances are that we also feel mentally fit. When we feel good about ourselves, we tend to feel good about the world around us, too.

People with low mood usually feel poorly about themselves or the world around them. They struggle with inactivity, isolation and feelings of hopelessness. Many recommend exercise as one way to restore emotional well-being, because:

  • Exercise produces a sense of enhanced energy; it increases mental and physical stamina

  • Exercise relieves tension and helps us cope with daily stress

  • Exercise is adult play, if accompanied by a positive attitude

  • Exercise produces a sense of self-worth and accomplishment; feeling good about achieving small goals is the benefit; competing and winning are secondary to doing

  • Exercise can relieve weariness and boredom, improve our sleep, and help us be less depressed

  • Exercise produces a sense of control that may not be experienced in other aspects of our lives

 According to a continuing study, people who exercised regularly had death rates one-fourth to one-third lower than inactive people, who are more prone to:

  • Fatigue

  • Heart attacks

  • Strokes

  • Diabetes

  • Excessive stress

  • Bad backs

  • Obesity

  • Low productivity

  • Depression

Exercise can be adapted to the special needs of individual populations: children, the elderly, the developmentally disabled and the physically disabled. Since women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, they should note that exercise can help lift moods.

One physician believes most people continue to exercise because of the psychological effects (they feel better) -- not because "their resting heart rate decreases, their oxygen consumption increases, their work capacity goes up."

In ancient Greece, home of the original Olympic Games, another doctor . . . the "Father of Medicine" . . . Hippocrates, recognized the benefits of physical activity. He believed exercise to be a person's best friend, helping a person feel good today and look forward to tomorrow.

Get on the road to an improved attitude about yourself and a better sense of control, so you can help anxiety and depression give way to confidence, peace of mind and a sense of well-being.

Before embarking on an exercise program, consult with your physician.