A psychiatrist I used to work with had a model of care he called oval therapy.
Basically he and his client went outside and walked around the oval while they did their therapy. It meant they both got outside, got a bit of Vitamin D, a bit of exercise and fresh air. Probably did both of them the world of good.
It also meant that they weren’t siting in a clinical office in an institution – a reminder of sickness – and instead of being face to face, which can be confronting, they were alongside each other. A completely different relationship dynamic.
But generally there are a number of ways that exercise can affect psychological health.
1. Vitamin D (from the sunlight) is shown to affect mood. Lack of Vitamin D is associated with Season Affective Disorder (SAD) where sufferers are depressed during winter months.
2. Physiology. It is hard to walk or do any other form of exercise without straightening up a little. Physiology affects mood (think of how a depressed person sits).
3. Stress Reduction. Through appropriate use of adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, reductions in build up of this hormone in your system don’t raise your stress levels.
4. Fitness. A physically healthy metabolism processes sugars differently to an overweight unfit one. A physically healthy body supports a physically healthy mind (think of how many illnesses have psychological aspects – or just the general psychological malaise of being unwell).
5. Change of scenery / change of focus. Being outdoors, concentrating on doing something physical can break patterns of thought. New things to look at, a focus on physical sensation (muscular effort) can distract from negative thought patterns or worrying thoughts.
So that’s my cue to exercise! See you out there.