Exercise for Mental Health

MYM Exercise; May 2021 (1)

Episode Description

Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our well-being. Exercise increases our mental alertness, energy, and positive mood. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Christy Wilkie, therapist at Dakota Family Services, talks about how movement, even for five minutes, can promote changes in the brain that lead to neural growth, reduced inflammation, and feelings of calm and well-being. Listen now to learn more about how moving your body can improve your mental health.

What to Expect

  • Understand how exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.
  • Learn how movement and exercise can help you break out of a negative thinking cycle.
  • Discover how just five minutes of walking can impact your mood.  


Things to Think About

  • How can you build 5-minute movement breaks into your day?
  • Are you ready to move your body to improve your mood?
  • What gets in your way when it comes to exercise?

About the Guest

Untitled Design (1)

Christy Wilkie provides outpatient therapy for children and adolescents, ages 5-25. Christy typically uses a CBT approach, but also provides collaborative problem solving and several other types of therapy. She earned her master’s degree in Social Work from Indiana University-Purdue University.

Christy provides telehealth and in-person services in our Fargo location. Call 1-701-419-8779 to make an appointment.

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Transcript
Exercise for Mental Health

Featuring Christy Wilkie, Therapist, Dakota Family Services

Tim Unsinn:
Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and wellbeing, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to mind your mind.

TU:
Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is Christie Wilkie. Christy is a therapist in Fargo and provides outpatient therapy for children and adolescents ages five to 25. She is a frequent half-marathoner as well. Christy, it's great to have you on Mind Your Mind. Our topic is exercise and movement and their impact on mental health. However, before we get to the topic, let's talk about why you do what you do.

Christy Wilkie:
I am so glad to be here. Thank you for having me. Why I do what I do. Specifically, we're talking about exercise and I think this has become a topic that's been, I've become passionate about in the last couple of years, because I know that I've seen firsthand the changes that having regular exercise can have on somebody. And then when you, when you see those changes and you understand the power that even a little bit of exercise or movement in your day can have, I just want everybody to kind of feel that. So I'm talking today about exercise because I'm hoping that just hearing some of the positive things that can come from having an active lifestyle will get people moving in the right direction.

TU:
Exercise helps you feel good and you don't have to run a half marathon to feel good and exercise because I can drive a half marathon. I don't think I can run it. I may be able to walk it over a couple of days, but that's about it. So let's talk about exercise and movement and their impact on mental health. Everyone has been told that exercise improves mental health, but what's really happening.

CW:
I think that's an important thing to talk about because when people talk about mental health, it's kinda like, yeah, yeah, yeah, exercise, diet, and sleep. We all know, blah, blah, blah. And I would encourage you to listen to April Morris's podcast on sleep, because there is way more to sleep than just closing your eyes. The things that happened during the sleep cycle are huge. And so today I kind of want to tackle exercise because everybody knows exercise is good for you, but what's happening? Exercise for depression, for example, I'll talk about depression, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic stress, and the impact that it can have on those things specifically. But exercise can actually treat mild or moderate depression as effectively as an antidepressant medication by running for 15 minutes a day, or walking for one hour. Then that can reduce major depression by 26%, which is huge.

TU:
Well, I was going to say too, you know, when we first talk about exercise, the word exercise often will turn people off, but exercise doesn't have to be excruciating. You just said walking for one hour. I think we can all do that. Whatever pace is, but you can walk for an hour. It's going to help you.

CW:

Yeah. And in fact, I was talking to my husband because he's trying to get walking too. And it's, most of the research says that five minutes. If you can commit five minutes, that'll kick some of those endorphins in and improve your mood with just five minutes of walking. And that's kind of why I said 'exercise and movement.' So I feel like people think of exercise and they think, nobody wants to exercise. I have to go to the gym. I have to sweat buckets to have any positive impact in my life. And that's just not true. It's just, it's just moving. And that can be done in so many different ways. And what it does, it promotes changes in the brain and it includes neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being.

CW:
And the kicker is endorphins. Man, you get those endorphins moving through your brain and that really impacts your mood and how you feel. And it serves as a distraction to break out of negative thinking cycles. That feed depression, when you're doing something like that, you're focusing on the activity that you're doing. It's hard not to because sometimes it's intense or it's like, I don't want to do it. But when you're walking, when you're running, when you're doing yoga, you're very focused, and it's a very mindful sort of activity. And if it's not, you should practice it to be a mindful sort of activity because it will take you out of the negative spiral of thoughts that are going in your head. And that's for depression and anxiety, both. So when they talk about running or they talk about walking or they talk, anything that you're doing outside, inside is to think about all five senses. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do your feet feel like on the road? What does the sun feel like on your face? Those are all things to take in too that will help promote mindful exercising to stop that reel of negative comments that people have going in their head most of the time.

TU:
Yeah. I think when we talk about exercise, in your a great point, think about the high you get from doing it before you do it, to get you to do it. Because if you're thinking about, Oh, the sweat and the, the, you know, the pain and all that stuff going into, it's not going to be as enjoyable. Think about when you accomplished it the last time and how great you felt. And you're just like, wow, I'm on top of the mountain. That's what you should feel like when you start your workout.

CW:
Absolutely. And it's so hard to do that. And especially when we're talking about people who are anxious or depressed, the thought of getting out of bed and doing something, it just feels like one more thing. It's just like the thought is very daunting. Or if you're anxious and you don't want to go to a gym because gyms are scary and you don't really know what people are gonna think about you, or you think people are gonna judge you, which is the one thing that COVID has done for us, is that it's given us a lot of at-home options for working out. So you don't have to get out and do something. You can do it in your own home. There's YouTube videos. There's Peloton still has their free 90 day trial. There's things to do outside, simple as playing with your dog. All of those things will increase your mental health.

CW:
And there's something to be. I know that people are anxious to go to gyms, which I totally understand. But there is a lot of positive camaraderie that comes from going to gyms. But a lot of times that social anxiety will get in the way of people, but you don't have to go to a gym in order to exercise. I think there's that, that belief too. It's like you could go and walk downtown Fargo and do some, do some window shopping and that's activity. That's exercise, that's movement. That's what we're talking about here. We're not talking about running marathons. That's not what it is. It might turn into that eventually, but that's not what we're focusing on.

TU:
Yeah. Tap into your love of the outdoors because with the weather changing, and I dare say, we, if you are familiar with Fargo and what typical winters are like, we didn't have a winter this year. There were maybe half a dozen days where it wasn't short weather. So get outdoors and just take that walk and enjoy. And don't be under the anxiety of, I've got to go to a gym. So some, some great points. Now we talked a little bit about exercise and movement and how we feel those effects. Any other thoughts on that? Yeah,

CW:
Stress, I think, especially in the pandemic, there's been a whole different level of stress that we've experienced this year that I don't think any of us have really lived through before. But when you're stressed, your muscles might be tense and you might not even realize it. The common problem areas are your face, your neck, and shoulders causing pain or headaches. And stress can also lead to insomnia, heartburn, stomach issues, which lead to worry and discomfort about those issues. And so then you start into this, you start worrying about what you're worrying about, and that's just a terrible cycle to be in. So exercise will help break that cycle. It releases endorphins and helps relax the muscles and relieve tension that stored up in the body. Mind and body are very closely related. How you think and how you feel, how you feel and how you think; they're very closely related. I don't know if you'd ever do yoga, but if you do yoga, they'll kind of tell you, you know, the ways that your body is connected to how it's feeling and where we store some of that stress. And to find ways to just get some of that out and realize that you're stressed, is huge. Because a lot of times we walk around really, really, really, really tense. And we have no real recollection of it.

TU:
We're talking about stress. It's like, are you stressed? No I'm fine; everything's great, but inside we're just a raging stress ball.

CW:
Yeah, that's exactly right. And exercise is a perfect outlet for that to happen. And again, it doesn't have to be intense activity. It can just be a 20 minute yoga flow, a walk, anything, anything will get you kind of moving in that direction.

TU:
So we're talking some of those benefits, some of the effects you talk about relief from stress and different things like that. I know there are just so many more, you got to let you brought like a novel today, of ways that this is going to help you.

CW:
Yeah, I did. I'm very passionate about this topic. Because I think it's something that's very simple that people, it's not simple, because it's really hard to take those first steps. That I know firsthand, but being able to take those first steps and it's free and it's something that really, really can benefit your brain. Trauma is another way that exercise will, and I don't think people always put trauma and exercise together. But there's evidence that suggests that focusing on your body and how it feels while you're exercising can help your nervous system become unstuck and move out of the immobilization stress response of trauma. If you focus on the physical sensations in your joints and muscles and your insides as your body moves, exercises that cross your body or that use all of your limbs are usually best: running, walking, weightlifting, hiking, canoeing, and any of those things that use your limbs are usually the best for those kinds of activities.

TU:
So where will I see the benefits of exercise in my daily life? You know, we talk about getting rid of stress and trauma and all those things. So that's got to have a great impact somewhere else.

CW:
Absolutely. And the thing is, even if you don't suffer from mental health issues, and a lot of people don't, exercise still benefits people in the form of higher self-esteem is one. And when you, when exercise becomes a habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You'll feel better about how you look maybe, and by meeting even small exercise goals, you'll feel a sense of achievement. I think there's a lot of, unfortunately, people have paired exercise with weight loss and wanting to look better, and that might be like a by-product of it. But exercise is really about your mind. And when I talk about self-esteem, I talk more about, look what you did today. Even if that's sometimes when I started going to the gym, I just, I would just get dressed to go to the gym and I wouldn't even go, but I was really, but I got my clothes on.

CW:
And so that was like a step in the right direction. Right. And I celebrated that, like good for me!

TU:
As you should! It was a step closer.

CW:
Or even, even if it's just getting up at the time that you want to go to the gym eventually, celebrate that. That's a goal. And when you start feeling good about even little goals that helps your self-esteem. You'll sleep better. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or the afternoon can help regulate sleep patterns. A lot of people feel a burst of energy after exercise. And so it's not super great to do it late at night, but if you did like a yoga flow or something relaxing at night, that's absolutely that will help your sleep. You'll have more energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more energy.

CW:
And even for just a few minutes, we're talking five minutes for a walk. It will increase your energy a little bit and get you moving. A lot of times, if you just promise yourself five minutes, more than likely you'll do more than five minutes, because once you get going and the endorphins get moving, the endorphins kind of tell you, 'Hey, this isn't so bad.' Or, 'Oh, my knee doesn't hurt so bad today,' because it does reduce pain. It hits all of those senses with the increased dopamine and serotonin, and it will help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress. And so all of those things can be impacted for everyone just by a couple of minutes of exercise a day.

TU:
This is a podcast you can listen to over and over because they're just, there is so much information I do want to ask you before we wrap up though, is there any more I know you could go on forever, because you're so passionate. Any final thoughts on exercise?

CW:
Just, I want to say that, that they are saying about 150 minutes a week is what we should aim for when you're looking at getting the optimal amount of return on your investment, which I think ends up being, I'm bad at math, 30 minutes, five times a week, I think. So if you can commit to 30 minutes, five times a week, but you can, you can break that up into five, 15 minute, five minute, 10 minute, 15 minute bursts. It doesn't have to be 30 minutes all at one time in the day. You can wake up and do 10 minutes. You can do 10 minutes at lunch and then 10 minutes in the evening, just break it up a little bit. When you look at it in smaller chunks, it seems way less daunting than to say, Oh my gosh, 150 minutes in a week. Nope.

TU:
Bite size. Make it bite-size.

CW:
Yep, absolutely.

TU:
So the recliner pulling the handle is not exercise and have to change my workout handle just a little bit.

CW:
If you do it for 10 minutes in a row, Tim.

TU:
Well, once I get, once I get it all stretched out, there's only that one time that I do it and that can last for hours.

CW:
It's basically chair yoga.

TU:
Yeah. Right. Well, I should get credit for pulling the chair back up and, and it's not electric, so I should get credit for that too.

CW:
Agreed!

TU:
Christy Wilkie has been our guest on Mind Your Mind, talking about exercise and movement and on a upcoming podcast, hopefully we will be talking about exercise and healthy eating, putting those two together. Because they go hand in hand and you will feel double the benefit after you've exercised if you're eating right. So thank you so much for the great information. Before we wrap up you know there's always that last question. What do you personally do, Christy, to mind your mind?

CW:
Well, this seems like the optimal place for me to tell you that I run. I run every day. I'm currently training for my first full marathon. I've done seven half marathons. And I started running less than a year ago. That's where we're at.

TU:
This is where I say, wow, because that is amazing. You've got that many half marathons in training for a full marathon in a year. That's pretty amazing.

CW:
Yeah. And I've, and I've never felt better. So that's kind of where my passion comes from for doing this. But yeah, I run and I do yoga every night and I play golf, which I can not wait to get out and hit the links.

TU:
No winter. It's always a good time to go out and golf, right? Christy, thank you again for your time.

CW:
Thank you for having me.

TU:
Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more go to dakotafamilyservices.org.

 

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