September 12, 2022 2 min read

Studies show that the benefits of exercise spans beyond just the physical.  Exercise has been found to be beneficial in improving mental health through a number of different pathways including endorphins, increasing oxygen load, reduce cortisol and epinephrine, and an increase in hippocampal neurogenesis (increase in neural connections in the part of the brain that partakes in memory and learning) (Dishman et al 2020).  These physiological changes display themselves in an increase in resilience, improved confidence, an ability to handle stress better, and a reduction in illness.  There are limits to this, it does not mean that more exercise leads to even more in terms of benefits.  There is a tipping point where the body perceives exercise to only be a stressor and you will have an inverse effect with an increase in cortisol, a reduced immune response and as such have less capacity for stress and other protective benefits.  

The Research

The World Health Organization recommended that individuals partake in  150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity.  The guidelines suggest that muscle strengthening should be incorporated such that all major muscle groups are exercised 2 or more days a week, with sedentary time being reduced.  Individuals 65 years of age and older should incorporate balance specific training at minimum 3 days a week to reduce risk of falls.  It's good to note that 1 in 4 adults do not meet the exercise minimum as per the guide, which increases risk of mortality by 20 to 30%.  

The Recommendations 

There are a variety of different modes of exercise that you may find enjoyable to participate in.  This can include gardening, mowing the lawn with a push or blade mower, walking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, road and mountain biking, roller skating, swimming, beach volleyball, tennis, hiking, and so on.  This list of activities is not exhaustive by any means.  If you are new to an activity it is always a good idea to do some research on it and get an idea of the skill level needed to be successful and acquire appropriate equipment including life jackets, wrist guards, protective padding, or helmets.  


Always start out slow if it is something new to you and progress gradually.  It's also a good idea to mix up your activities so that you are more likely to work different areas of the body, this will reduce the risk of creating muscle imbalances which could lead to an increase in injury down the line.  If possible it's best to combine push and pull exercises for all of the major areas of the body.  Incorporating mobility work, this could be yoga, or other mobility drills to your program to help increase flexibility, improve recovery and reduce injuries. 



References

Dishman, Rod K., et al. "Working out boosts brain health." American Psychological Association, APA, 4 Mar. 2020, www.apa.org/topics/exercise-fitness/stress.

"Physical Activity." World Health Organization, WHO, 26 Nov. 2020, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity.