By Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT @pdresources.org
There is something truly magical that happens when we exercise. While we know we feel better, several studies have shown some pretty dramatic effects that extend far beyond the physical. Our memory is improved (Alloway et al., 2016), our cognitive functioning is enhanced (Kindermann, 2016), and our brains are more connected (Raichlen, 2016).
Moreover, when Jasper Smits, the director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University, analyzed dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews related to exercise and mental health, including their own meta-analysis of exercise interventions for mental health and studies on reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise, the results were clear: exercise is a powerfully effective way to reduce depression and anxiety.
Smits explains, “Exercise has been shown to have tremendous benefits for mental health. The more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be” (Smits, 2010).
Individuals who exercise were seen to report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger. Exercise appeared to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and was shown to help patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors. For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise was seen to reduce their fears and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing.
And the benefits are immediate. While health practitioners often emphasize the long-term health outcomes of exercise, according to Smits and Otto, they should be talking about those felt right away. As Smits notes, “After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy – and you’ll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood is no longer a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise,” (Smits, 2010).
An important part of this, is that therapists help their patients take specific, achievable steps, and provide them with the tools they need to succeed, such as daily schedules, goal setting strategies and ways to overcome obstacles, prevent injuries and develop a healthy, individualized running regimen.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:
Therapeutic Aspects of Running is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that will equip healthcare professionals with the knowledge to help clients develop a healthy individualized running regimen while preventing running injuries. Physical inactivity is among the most critical public health concerns in America today. For healthcare professionals, the creation and implementation of sustainable fitness solutions is a relevant cause. This course will help you become familiar with the physical and psychological rewards involved in the activity of running, identify risks and the most common running injuries – along with their symptoms and most probable causes – and describe strategies that can be used in preventing running injuries and developing a healthy individualized running regimen. Course #10-70 | 2014 | 16 pages | 10 posttest questions
In the Zone: Finding Flow Through Positive Psychology is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a how-to guide on incorporating flow into everyday life. According to the CDC, four out of ten people have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Further, the APA reports that most people suffer from moderate to high levels of stress, and according to SAMSHA, adult prescription medication abuse (primarily to counteract attention deficit disorders) is one of the most concerning health problems today. And while clinicians now have a host of resources to mitigate distress and reduce symptomatology, the question remains: how do clinicians move clients beyond baseline levels of functioning to a state of fulfillment imbued with a satisfying life purpose? The answer may lie in a universal condition with unexpected benefits. This course will explore the concept of flow, also known as optimal performance, which is a condition we are all capable of, yet seldom cultivate. When in flow we experience a profound and dramatic shift in the way we experience ourselves, our capabilities, and the world around us. Our focus sharpens, our strengths are heightened, we feel an intense sense of euphoria and connection to the world around us, and we often realize capabilities we didn’t know were possible. For clients, flow doesn’t just help them become more capable, it dramatically improves their lives – teaching them not just to expect more from themselves, but how to cultivate the very conditions that make expecting more possible. This course, packed with exercises, tips, and tools, will demonstrate just how flow can be incorporated into your everyday life, and used to help your clients move from simply surviving to a life that harnesses and builds upon their own unique potential to thrive. Course 21-11 | 2016 | 30 pages | 15 posttest questions
Nutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible. So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).