A new Univeristy of B.C. study shows that Canadians are not getting enough light physical activity (Pixabay.com)

A new Univeristy of B.C. study shows that Canadians are not getting enough light physical activity (Pixabay.com)

FITNESS: Exercise can ease symptoms of anxiety, depression

Pandemic is having a profound impact on society and our mental health

Ron Cain | Contributed

The pandemic is having a profound impact on society. The economic stress is apparent, but we also know more people are reporting signs of anxiety and depression.

To cope with this situation, you need a plan that includes exercise.

Our minds and our bodies are interconnected far more than we realize. They refer to the gut tract as our second brain. The food that we ingest and the process of breaking it down and absorbing the nutrients can have a profound impact on our moods and even mental health issues as serious as bipolar disorder.

ALSO READ: Canadians not getting enough light exercise during pandemic

Depression is ubiquitous in people – more than we want to admit. The most commonly prescribed medications can have serious side effects, especially in the growing brains of teenagers.

Although scientific studies have demonstrated that exercise has a significant impact on depression, anxiety, memory, and ADHD, I doubt family doctors are writing down walk or run every day as often as they are prescribing medications.

Granted, there are many cases where medication is essential, but exercise should always be included in the plan.

Diet, exercise, meditation and mindfulness are all accepted as complementing traditional medicine and are far more impacting because they can be prescribed as a long-term preferred treatment method. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that cardio exercise for 15 minutes a day reduced the risk of depression by 25 per cent.

Cardio exercise releases endorphins or pleasure-giving hormones into the brain, giving a feeling of well-being and a natural way to relieve our mind of stress and tension.

Sometimes after a long day at work, it is tempting to hit the couch and watch TV, not making that trip to the gym or lacing up our running shoes to hit the Galloping Goose for a 5K hike. However, when you do not give in to that temptation, you will feel better at the end of your workout. The fresh air, the invigoration of pushing our bodies, and the naturally induced feeling of well-being boost our mood.

Teens are very stressed by the changes to the schools and the lack of sports. This is a great time to introduce teens to non-team activities such as running, distance cycling, weight training, or yoga. Find solutions, not medications.

Exercising can not only help the moods of the mysterious teen brain. It helps with ADHD by releasing dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels, improving memory, focusing, and attention to detail.

One of the most significant risks to teens’ mental health is excessive screen time on electronic devices. Establishing a regular sleep schedule – at least eight, preferably nine, hours a day for teens is also a key component to their mental health.

Better memory, sleeping better, weight loss, and coping with stress – all key benefits from even a simple walk in the fresh air.

Creating a partnership or exercise buddy system also dramatically increases the chances of your success. It could be your spouse, a father and son or daughter jogging duo – it works. Give it a try!


Ron Cain is a personal trainer with Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at sookepersonaltraining@gmail.com.


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