Science

Physical exercise and mental health: how long to practice it, according to neuroscientists

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The time to spend on physical exercise for take care of mental health It is exactly the same as recommended by the WHO to take care of health. Because we have said it many times: there is no health without mental health.

We are talking between 150 and 300 minutes a week of moderate exercise. Or between 75 and 150 minutes of intense exercise. All this divided into two or three weekly sessions, preferably alternating different disciplines. This is how the neuroscientist explains it Nazareth Castellanos in his book Neuroscience of the body (Editorial En orbit), in which he dedicates one of his chapters to the ability of physical exercise to promote emotional well-being and, at the same time, the physical health of the brain.

The benefits of exercise at the neural level

That during the practice of sports endorphins are released that improve the state of well-being is something that we have talked about at length. But it is interesting how various neuroscience studies have confirmed that exercise not only treats mental disorders, as Castellanos explains, but also at a neuronal level promotes neurogenesis or, what is the same, the generation of new neurons. ‘It has been observed that physical exercise favors brain resources for cognition, enhances plasticity, vascular function and decreases inflammation. After a single session, neuronal growth factors are increased, although, of course, a single session is not enough to maintain the benefits,’ says the expert. The same goes for therapy.

If this amount of exercise is practiced, anxiety is reduced

Popularly, it is said that exercise to release tension. But science has measured how exercise reduces anxiety: specifically between 15 and 25%, explains Castellanos. She references research from 2018 that even stated that sedentary people have a higher risk of depression. As the expert explains, more and more mental health centers are integrating physical exercise as part of their protocol. In fact, she gives the example of a health service in Australia that turned her office into a gym, managing to significantly reduce psychiatric symptoms.

The importance of taking care of posture

The posture change the mood –we have said it other times–, but also the way in which reality is perceived. For example, Castellanos talks about a 2014 study that found how a good posture with a straight back facilitates memory, while a stooped posture can cause fewer things to be remembered and even do so in a negative tone. ‘The body is a hinge that allows us to migrate from one state to another. Just as the brain interprets posture to infer about our state, a change in posture can contribute to overturning a situation,’ he says. Therefore, work the postural awareness also helps enhance positive emotions. ‘Aware of one’s own posture throughout the day could become an ally of mental health, another tool that most are unaware of and that those of us who know it do not always incorporate,’ concludes Castellanos.

Article originally published in Vogue Spain, vogue.es.

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