Exercise with Your Therapist

exercise with your therapist

Sweat it out to work it out! An article in the March 2009 Fitness Magazine spotlights a growing trend that’s anything but new. Several therapists have been offering to take brisk walks, a jog, maybe even lift weights with clients as opposed to solely sitting in an office during sessions, according to the article, “Project (E)motion,” by Holly C. Corbett.

Exercise and the Brain

Aside from the known physical benefits of a toned body and lowered chances of certain diseases, exercise is encouraged in people who suffer from anxiety and depression. Exercise increases blood flow to the entire body and heightens the surge of oxygen.

The brain needs a great amount of oxygen and glucose for it to function properly. This in turn affects the response of certain brain chemicals such as a boost in endorphins (which affect mood, decrease pain and stress) and in acetylcholine (which support memory and mental processing in addition to voluntary muscle movement), as reported in theonline article “The Mental Benefits of Exercise and Its Influence on Mood, Function, and Aging,” by J. Wall.

Exercise and Problem-Solving

Within 10 minutes or so into a moderate workout, the body begins revving up its stress-reducing chemicals, or endorphins, allowing the person to push negativity easily to the background, making her more receptive to putting things into perspective.

While most people tend to problem-solve using their more logical left-brain, exercise fuels the right-brain --- the more creative, intuitive side. The ability to use both sides of the brain to approach a problem (i.e. family concerns, self-esteem issues, financial hardships) the more likely a person might be able to come up with fresh, innovative discoveries.

Post-Workout Journaling

Take advantage of post-workout fatigue, says Corbett. According to Beth Shaw who was interviewed for the Fitness story and is founder and president of a mind-body fitness-education company in California, “Your defenses are down, so you’re less likely to censor yourself, making it the perfect time to talk or write about your feelings.”

Take a few minutes between workout and shower to write down anything that is bothering you. Seeing your troubles on paper can help you organize any possible solutions, no matter how small the step forward.

Avoid Uncomfortable Silences

Another benefit of exercise therapy is that it avoids the awkward face to face pressure of talking about your feelings. This is one reason why parents are advised to bring up sensitive subjects with their adolescents while doing something else, like driving or shooting hoops in the back yard. Sidestepping the feeling of being in the “hot seat” can help a patient ease up and not feel so self-conscious.

Exercise=Letting Go

When you focus your physical and mental energy on exercise (a positive) and free up your mind from constant anxious thoughts (negative), you will begin to associate opening up with the feel-good response you derive from working out, and vice versa, making it easier to let go of baggage.

Not only does your body feel more alive and strong, but exercise releases any tension and anger that you might have been harboring. This is why people feel better after landing blows on a punching bag, and partly why runners experience that high.

The best news is that you don’t need to have a therapist to experience exercise therapy. Whether you sweat it out with your counselor, a girlfriend, your dog or by yourself, focus on the tested and true outcomes of exercise: better physical, mental and emotional health. You’ll acquire all this, and no appointment necessary.

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