Benefits of exercise and lifestyle programs for the management of PTSD, Depression and Anxiety
There are many ways that exercise positively influences your mental health:
Promotes the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain, like endorphins and serotonin.
It helps you sleep better so you rest fully at night and feel more energised during the day.
Gives you a sense of accomplishment as your fitness improves and you start achieving your goals.
Exercise can also be a shared activity with others so you get the added benefits of social connection.
Increases insulin sensitivity
Can assist with the management of other chronic health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Chronic Pain,
PTSD if often accompanied with additional chronic health problems such as chronic pain, metabolic syndromes and chronic illness
The importance of developing an individualised exercise program for people living with PSTD
When designing exercise programs and providing support for people living with PTSD, anxiety or depression, our Exercise Physiologist is passionate about discussing approaches to developing an exercise routine that takes into account the personal choices and symptoms of each client.
Brainfit clients are invited to share their concerns regarding the management of their symptoms during exercise, and careful choice exercise environments are discussed with each client. Adhering to an exercise program should not be a stressful experience for clients and a variety of approaches may need to be discussed and trial\led prior to finding the correct exercise program.
The Importance of Support Systems for Improving Exercise Adherence
Setting up support systems is also crucial when assisting clients with starting an exercise routine The use of Apps such as Endomondo, Fitbit, Garmin and Apple Watches are very useful to assist with motivation and adherence to exercise. Brainfit Exercise Physiology utlises these Apps to create online challenges and support systems to assist clients with remote support. Exercise support systems can include the following:
Emotionally safe group exercise programs
Having someone to monitor your progressions ( coach, exercise instructor, family member, friend)
Setting goals that are achievable
Using technology and phone apps to measure progress
Creating a routine that fits your lifestyle, and not constantly attempting fit into a routine that isn't suitable for your mental health
Including a pet in your routine
Remember it's ok to rest too
It is important to allow yourself to have days of from exercise also. Mental health care also includes allowing your body to have some peace and quiet which may mean pulling the curtains, snuggling into bed for a few hours and taking a nap. Taking a break from exercise is not failing at exercise, and Brainfit clients are encouraged to program rest and recovery into their self care schedule. Sometimes life can become overwhelming and when battling a mental health issue trying, to fit exercise in can become too much. We use a 3 day guideline , encouraging our clients to take 3 days off from exercise and to plan to restart on their 4th day. A good rest can be as good as exercise.
Encouraging Outdoor Exercise
'Indoor exercise or gym based work can create great routines for people needing to include exercise as part of their treatment plan for mental health care. For some people, small rooms and noisy environments may not be the most suitable way to exercise and may create exercise avoidance.
Encouraging the use of bush walking, beach walking and water based exercise can assist with motivation. Often just attending an outdoor environment such as the beach or a pool and sitting and relaxing whilst observing people can be a great way to start an exercise program. You don't always need to be moving to be taking care of your mental health. The brain learns and rewires from observing behaviors of others and is how our " baby brain" learned to socialise and move, through the observation of other humans.
Exercise Programs that Assist with Postural Strength
Long periods of sitting, social isolation and chronic pain can result in the development of poor posture. Poor posture can then create a cycle of neck and shoulder pain, changes in breathing patterns and increased fatigue. At BrainFit, not only is cardiovascular exercise encouraged, but postural stability and strength is also included into a daily movement program. Postural exercises do not need to be exhausting and combined with breathing programs, can have a tremendous benefit as a management tool for PTSD, anxiety and depression.
Benefits of Breathing Based Programs
Gentle programs such as yoga and tai chi are very beneficial due to their focus on developing breathing and postural strength. Breathing exercises can also be included into every day actions and easy to complete at home without attending supervised sessions. Other benefits of breathing programs include:
•Assists with controlling vagal nerve stimulation •Provides stimulus to work on posture •Increases benefits of nitrous oxide (Our sinuses produce nitric oxide, which, when carried into the body through the breath, combats harmful bacteria and viruses in our bodies, regulates blood pressure and boosts the immune system. •Easy to complete •Nil cost
Neuro-Chemical Benefits of Exercise
Exercise creates a range of chemical reactions that assist with mood stabilization. Below are some of the chemicals that are enhanced through physical exercise Serotonin Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion. However, if the brain has too much serotonin, it may lead to depression. If the brain has too much serotonin, it can lead to excessive nerve cell activity. It also helps reduce depression, regulate anxiety, and maintain bone health.
BDNF Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) has been referred to as a fertilizer for your brain. It is a substance that is found in your brain and helps to maintain the life of your brain cells, as well as grow new ones. You’ve probably heard all about ‘neuroplasticity’ and how we used to think our brains, once adult, were like a lump of concrete – unable to change and grow. Scientists now believe our brains are more like plastic – able to adapt, grow and change depending on what we do with them. BDNF is widely accepted as being a key player in this ‘plastic’ ability of the brain – its presence has been shown to make brain cells in petri dishes sprout new branches (necessary activity for a cell to make new connections!). Low levels of BDNF have been associated with depression, anxiety, poor memory and brain degeneration as seen in conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
FearLess is a charity that works with people living with the consequences of post traumatic stress (often referred to as PTSD). Fearless help family members in any way affected by it. Members come from all walks of life including those living with PTSD and their families or people who want to do their bit to make the lives of people living with post traumatic stress more enjoyable and fulfilling. The Fearless organise work complements the activities of other community-based organisations and government agencies that provide services to people with post traumatic stress.