May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we know that mental health and physical health go hand in hand. I hear time and time again that people come to us at Sportsplex for their mental health, not just to grow some muscles or splash around in the pool. But what’s the science? Is it actually true? And what if I don’t like meditation? Are other activities also effective?
The science is pretty awesome! First, it’s important to understand how antidepressant medications work. Though not fully understood, it is overwhelmingly thought that these medications work by chemically increasing neurotransmitters in the brain. You probably have heard of some of these such as dopamine and serotonin, but there’s even more, like BDNF, which is actually the most linked to depression. (Haven’t heard of it? Give it a quick Google search if you want to know more).
Of course you can take medications, but what if there was another way? (And please understand, I am in no way suggesting you go against medical recommendations) Did you know that these same neurotransmitters are released and increased during high intensity activity? Sorry yogis, it’s time to shed some light on other activities that are also beneficial to mental health!
When you do high intensity aerobic activity, your body increases production of neurotransmitters which then create new synapses and maintain brain health. Have I lost you yet? Basically, high intensity exercise is good for your brain health, and mental health as we talk about it is thought to be a disruption of brain health. Depression is a true disease of the brain, which is why we can treat it with medication AND EXERCISE! In fact, more and more people are being given a treatment plan that includes intense exercise. How awesome is that?
As a quick review (in case you’ve never heard my speech), high intensity does not equal high impact! High intensity means pushing yourself to the max for periods of time. It can be tennis, weight training, bootcamp, or a full on HIIT workout.
The main takeaway: Take care of yourself, and that includes your mental health. We don’t live in a vacuum. Our mental and physical health are integrated. You’re worth it!