Exercise helps your physical and mental health: expert

Even if you don’t feel like going out to the gym, just taking a walk can have positive effects on your mental health.

Laura Middleton is the Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo’s Department of Kinesiology. She studies the effects of exercise therapy on dementia patients. 

She says that she, along with her colleagues, have found evidence that exercise can improve mental health, especially for those with dementia.

“Well we know that exercise, or physical activity more generally, is both a good factor that helps toward preventing mental health issue of a broad variety.”

According to Middleton, the act of physical exercise can change how your brain works.

In the short term, exercise can increase your dopamine levels, which is also known as the “happy hormone.”

Middleton says that over time, exercise can change how your mind works.

“Long term wise, exercise can also influence the actual structure of your brain through modifying a variety of growth factors that affect the connections in your brain and the structure and volume of your brain itself.”

Middleton emphasizes exercise isn’t a cure, especially for those dealing with strong cases of depression and anxiety.

For everyone else, it can be “a good management tool.”

More studies are being conducted on a variety of exercises from high intensity interval training to aerobics, but she says there is no minimum amount of exercise to gain the positive mental effects.

“Actually being active in a way that you enjoy and that you’ll continue being part of because you enjoy it is probably most important.”

She says those who don’t like going to the gym should find a different way to exercise.