Exercise, Movement and Mental Health

movement and mental health

Physical activity has the same effect as antidepressants, yet with no negative side effects. Exercise stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain which produce serotonin, the feel-good endorphin. The Mental Health Foundation states that “Substantial evidence shows that exercise therapy can be an effective treatment for depression*.” The movement brings individuals back in touch with their physicality and has proven to reduce anxiety, decrease depression, enhance mood and improve cognitive functioning and self-worth thus grounding them and providing a more solid foundation to work from in daily living.

Static Life

The need for physical movement in the era of the computer desk job, whether working from home or an office, is more vital than in previous years. Technology has provided freedom yet produced a generation of people with bad posture, strained eyesight and static energy through lack of movement. If there were opportunities for breaks in office environments where the focus is some kind of physical activity, then the influx of innovative thought and productivity would replace the afternoon slump.

A static life equals a static mind, which can lead to negative thought and depression. If thought creates the reality that people find themselves in then surely this is reason enough to put on a pair of running shoes and start moving. When energy is flowing freely in the body, it also allows the space for inspired ideas to flourish and creative thinking to flow. Movement helps to stimulate "stuck" energy in the body which in turn revitalises both body and mind.

It’s a simple remedy. Shake up the body to release the tension built from anxiety, stress, desk jobs and fast living and the mind will get shaken up as well. The more static people become and stay, the more static thought will be, reducing space for inspiration.

Alternative Approach

It can be frustrating to find that a holistic approach to healing is still regarded in many mainstream circles as an 'alternative' approach. GPs in the UK are over-reliant on subscribing antidepressant medication to their patients rather than exercise therapy or treatments that involve talking. Statistics provided by the Mental Health Foundation show that prescriptions for anti-depressants have almost doubled in the last decade.
It is amazing that mainstream medicine still treats the body separately from the mind when there is substantial evidence that a holistic approach to healing is necessary. Treating physical disease and imbalance on merely a physical level never eradicates the issue completely because the origins begin within the mind and emotions.

Mainstream Medical Changes

Mainstream medical practice is however gradually opening up to 'alternative' approaches and even referring patients to acupuncturists in the particular area of back pain, although acupuncture can be used to treat most non-life threatening ailments.

There are glimmers of change and hope within the UK’s National Health Service, particularly in the realms of mental health. There has been a general rise in interest and use of complementary therapies within the NHS as dissatisfaction with mainstream treatments has led to a search for safer and more effective alternatives. Among these complimentary therapies are movement, relaxation and exercise as well as yoga, meditation, nutritional therapy, massage and many other therapies.

Unfortunately a number of factors continue to limit the use of complimentary therapies in mainstream medicine. The usual lack of resources and the apparent deficiency of evidence for their effectiveness as well as political opposition continues to hinder their use. The majority of investment is still poured into evidence-based medicine in the form of research, development and training.

Growing demand for access to complementary health services from people suffering from depression or mental health may mean that further changes are imminent. As the mainstream catches up to 'alternative' approaches that have been utilised for centuries, their 'evidence"'will be gathered through the public’s response to greater health and well-being; that is if the pharmaceutical companies don’t mind taking a cut in their drugs revenue.

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