JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - December 2017 - Kansas City
Move the Body-Open the Mind
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
As winter and the longest night approaches, our hibernating self may be pressing for attention. We may find ourselves doing less exercise or none at all. Bad decision! More and more convincing research tells us that brain health and plasticity, particularly from midlife onward, is influenced positively by exercise.
We have paid attention for a long time to the positive effect of exercise on our physical health. We now have a substantial amount of research informing us of the positive effects on our emotional and cognitive health. According to a study done by the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for twenty minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.
A recent study at UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors and made it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections. A 2013 National Institutes of Health study found that exercise helps us be quicker in our decision making process by raising the amount of white matter in the brain. A study done with a group of older adult also found that sedentary adults who practiced an aerobic fitness program for just six months experienced brain growth. It is good to know positive changes can take place at any age!
Exercise helps alleviate depression symptoms. Exercise also helps us avoid depression by producing a protective stress protein that eradicates a harmful stress substance.
A 2014 research study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that people who exercised thirty minutes a day had a greater ability to be more positive and have a better outlook in the face of stress. The NIH study also found that participants monitored over a two-month period while participating in a regular exercise program exhibited positive calming and centering behavior in controlling emotions and stress.
Have you ever noticed that after a brisk walk or workout you feel a boost of energy? Your experience has also been affirmed by research showing that we often get a second wind affect improving energy levels and reduced fatigue.
All these studies tell us how powerful even a short amount of exercise can make in our mental and emotional health. So, if you were not convinced before, I hope you will reconsider the positive effects of exercise for you.
So, I ask you, as well as myself, what will we do about it? I have always found exercising regularly to be a daunting challenge. I know I am not alone in this dilemma. Let’s think about some ways to establish that healthy exercise habit.
It is helpful to pick types of exercises you may like or enjoy. Do you like walking, running, swimming, aerobic exercise, or some other kind of workout? The chances of doing exercise will be greatly helped if you enjoy some aspect of it. I like walking outdoors as nature has a very calming effect on me and I like experiencing the seasons.
Think about what you like.
Now consider whether you would like to do it alone or with another person or a group. Some years ago when I was going through big changes I was able to meet a friend each morning for an hour walk. I think this daily ritual was a big part of my ability to get through a crisis in better shape. You may choose to go solo or with others or vary it by day or type of exercise.
Another consideration is what time of day works best for you. The exercise experts tell us that exercise done early in the day has more positive effects. But anytime is better than not at all. Everyone’s physiology is a bit different as well. So, pick a time! Having a routine helps a lot.
Make a doable goal on frequency and duration. Exercise once a day, 3-4 times a week, 20 or 30 minutes. Start small and add to it, as you are able.
The reward is immediate and can also last for a healthier mental, physical and emotional future.
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to