There’s a fine line between sanity and insanity and for some of us it gets finer every day. This crazy world gets the best of us sometimes and when it does, there are lots of fun ways to deal with it.
And trust me, I’ve tried a few of them. However, since becoming a fitness professional exercise and the occasional alcoholic beverage is mostly how I deal. But it’s a hovering dark cloud that’s never been too faraway because my family has had and continues to have its own fair share of mental health issues.
My father was dyslexic, a drunk, had severe mood swings and violent outbursts. He may have been Bipolar, but he lived in an era where it wasn’t diagnosed,(as far as I know) so it will remain a mystery.
The same goes for two of my siblings. Both have Bipolar, have had multiple breakdowns and one has tried to commit suicide on couple of occasions. Several years ago, I had to talk down one from the edge of suicide. This wasn’t a pleasant experience and it something that still haunts me.
This is difficult for me to write about but necessary. Why them and not me? Seeing Bipolar has a genetic component, I got lucky I guess. Mental illness happens to a person whether they like it or not or it’s their fault or not.
It maybe luck, exercise or both but we’ll get to that later. However, for now, wrap your head around these figures.
Note– I’m using USA as an example. I’m sure there are significant stats worldwide.
Nearly one in five Americans suffer from a mental illness in a given year and one in 25 American adults live with a serious mental illness. (1)And according to Mental Illness Policy Organization, 50% of people living with a mental illness don’t get treatment which means there is a lot of self-medicating going on. (2)
Hopefully, you should know all the health benefits of exercise but, it has positive outcomes for mental health also.Because the mind and body are not separate things, they’re one thing, joined at the hip or at the brain stem. You know what I mean.
Exercise helps to reduce mild to moderate depression, dementia, anxiety, and even reduces cognitive issues in schizophrenia. It can also keep us sharpas we age.
Some of us me need all the help I can get. 😊
Put simply, exercise directly affects brain health.
Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions particularly the hippocampus through better blood supply that improves overall brain health by improving the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients. (3)
The Hippocampus is an area of the brain that’s involved in memory, emotion regulation, learning and plays a crucial role in mental health. There is evidence to suggest many mental health conditions are associated with reduced growth and development of nervous tissue in the hippocampus.
Okay, the nerdy science part is over for now and now you should realize that exercise is great for the mind and the body. Let’s explore exercises that are great for both.
- Aerobic exercise
This one really is a no brainer, pun intended.
Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming,cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. (4)
James Blumenthal, a neuroscientist at Duke University gathered 156 adults suffering from mild to moderate depression and split them into 3 groups.
Group one-Treated with drugs only
Group two– Combination of drugs and aerobic exercise
Group three- Aerobic exercise only
He concluded aerobic exercise worked as equally well as treating depression as it did with drugs. Furthermore, combining the two treatments yielded the same success rate as doing either one individually.
Not only did exercise work like a drug, he followed up with 83 of these adults 6 months later and those in the exercise group only 8% had relapsed back into depression. (5)
The thought was exercise improved their self-esteem because they took control of their own health and were not letting the drugs do all the work.
Researchers also discovered that for every 50 minutes of exercise added each week, the rate of depression fell by half. This hold true if you’re already a dedicated exerciser too. (6)
Cardiovascular health is great for your waistline,heart health and brain and all you have to do is strap on a pair of shoes and go for a walk. What’s stopping you?
2. Crossing midline
A wonderful thing happens to your brain when you use your arm and opposite leg (at the same time) and you cross the midline of your body.
This contra lateral movement pattern stimulates brain and nervous system development which is due to the firing neural pathways inthe right and left-brain hemispheres simultaneously.
Any time you cross midline, you’re re-integrating your brain and nervous system and re-organizing mind-body connections. This is one of the reasons why aerobic exercise is successful in treating depression and you feel refreshed after taking a walk
Do you remember the last time you were stressing, or you forgot something, and then you got up moved around and BOOM the stress is less and you remember where you left your keys? This is the power of crossing midline.
Other benefits include
- Stabilizes your walking gait coordination– builds core strength
- Energizes your body and calms your mind –releases tension and stress
- Improves your eye teaming skills –essential for focus, reading, and writing (7)
There is a lack of scientific evidence suggesting crossing midline improves mental health. However, it has great benefits for the brain and body, I can only imagine it would be good for your sanity also.
But don’t take my word for it. Next time you’re on edge, try these exercises on for size.
3. Resistance training
A meta-analysis was done on the associations between resistance training and those with depressive symptoms. And this analysis of 33 clinical trials including 1877 participants concluded that resistance exercise training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. (8)
There was no difference between male or female or whether the person went to the gym more than twice a week. However, exercise wasn’t a replacement for medication, more like a supplement.
Although the link is strong, there was no theories given why this is the case.
However, the exercise probably has both physiological and psychological consequences, says Brett Gordon, a graduate student at the University of Limerick in Ireland. He suggested that weight training could be changing aspects of the brain, including the levels of various neurochemicals that influence moods. (9)
In a study of one lifting weights has prevented me from punching holes in the wall and from completely losing the plot when life gets the better of me. Maybe from getting Bipolar also.
Movement is not only medicine for your body but for your mind also.
You can widen the fine line between sanity and insanity if you get up, move and break a sweat. Stronger body will lead to stronger mind because punching holes in the wall is not always the answer.