Clinical Psychology Associates

HOW EXERCISE HELPS OUR BRAINS

Copyright © 2013 by Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. For more information: http://DrLynnJohnson.com

In the past few years we have discovered that physical exercise is really quite good for our brains. People exercising at least thirty minutes a day were just as able to recover from depression as people who took antidepressant drugs.
And if a person is anxious or nervous, vigorous exercise for over thirty minutes a day, but less than one hour, was just as good as medication.

So patients are wondering, “What kind of exercise?”

The good news is virtually any kind works, weight lifting, jogging, swimming, biking, or even walking. Moderate or intense, it is all good.

The real question is how do we get ourselves to do it? Most people agree that exercise is good, but most people don’t do much.

Here are some secrets:

1. Predict how well you will feel after exercise, from 0 (no better at all) to 10 (feel great!) After you exercise, write down how you actually feel. This prediction task is a wonderful way to motivate ourselves. We need to see that it really helps us feel better.
2. Make it a social event: find friends or enlist family to exercise with. Walk in the morning with neighbors or agree to meet family or friends for an activity.
3. Exercise in the mornings. Research shows that while the best time to exercise is in the evening, people stay with it more when they do it in the mornings.
4. Include brief exercise throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to an appointment if possible. Stand up every few minutes if you work at a desk.
5. Break up exercise into shorter times, as long as the total is around thirty minutes.
6. Write “If-then” plans. “If it is 6:00 AM, then I get up and walk with my friends.” Research has shown that “If-then” plans, when written down, have great power. People are about three times more successful at achieving their goals when they write “if-then” planning sentences, when compared with people who only set goals but didn’t use the “if-then” planning sentences.
7. Get hobbies started that involve activity. Perhaps the best one is gardening. Working in the garden for a half hour a day gives you great satisfaction as well as giving you some very good exercise.

Good luck with your exercise habit. It helps us in so many ways, as long as it is moderate. You may read that intense exercise is risky for our hearts, and that is true. But less than or up to an hour a day is so helpful that we have no hesitancy in recommending to everyone.

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