“You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body” – Juvenal
If you have ever taken classes in Latin, I am sure that you have heard the expression,”mens sana in corpore sano,” which translates to “a sound mind in a sound body.” Most of the expressions and words learned Latin classes have long since been forgotten or have been written off as irrelevant for 21st century life. This quote from Juvenal’s “Satire X” deserves a second look.
Juvenal is giving his fellow Romans advice on what they should wish for in their lives. His suggestion is that they get their priorities straight, and focus on what’s really important, our physical and emotional health. The expression, mens sana in corpore sano, is a reminder to all of us. You probably are familiar with more contemporary expressions like, “when you have your health, you have everything,” but too often most of us do little to ensure that we have our health. Research indicates that one of the most immediate benefits of a sound body is a sound mind. While a sound body takes time to develop, the benefits of a sound mind can be felt almost immediately.
The American Psychological Association identified in 2011 what they are referring to as The Exercise Effect, which touts the benefits of a regimen of moderate exercise as a key component in the maintenance of our mental health and happiness. The APA also acknowledges that graduate training programs in counseling psychology rarely teaches students how to help patients modify their exercise behavior.”Exercise is something that psychologists have been very slow to attend to,” says Michael Otto, PhD, a professor of psychology at Boston University. “People know that exercise helps physical outcomes. There is much less awareness of mental health outcomes — and much, much less ability to translate this awareness into exercise action.”
If you’ve ever taken a walk, gone for a jog, or taken a moment to stretch during a hectic day, you’ve probably noticed that you felt better afterwards. Unfortunately, you may have not realized that this feeling of well-being can be duplicated whenever you want it. Dr.Otto’s work at Boston University shows that the mood enhancement effect of such moderate exercise is felt within five minutes. Five minutes! Think about that for a moment. What other medication or prescription can bring results that quickly? And, research done at Duke University indicates that the results can be long-lasting.”There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people and people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke. Blumenthal has explored the mood-exercise connection through a series of randomized controlled trials. In one such study, he and his colleagues assigned sedentary adults with major depressive disorder to one of four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, the antidepressant Zoloft or a placebo pill. After four months of treatment, Blumenthal found, patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had higher rates of remission than did the patients on the placebo. Exercise, he concluded, was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder.The Duke University study showed that exercise not only improved the lives of patients that had depression, but that these patients were less relapse prone. Their conclusion was that exercise is not only a front-line treatment of depression, but it is an important factor in preventing its relapse.
Mary de Groot, PhD, a psychologist in the Department of Medicine at Indiana University, is conducting research with depressed patients who also have diabetes. Rates of clinical depression are higher among adults that have diabetes, is more difficult to treat, and is more likely to return after treatment. People with diabetes are more likely to be depressed, and depressed persons are more likely to have diabetes. People with both disorders have a significantly higher death rate than those with either disorder alone. Doctor de Groot was shocked to find that there was no significant research done on the link between exercise and the treatment of patients with the co-occurrence of diabetes and depression. In a pilot study that she conducted, patients showed significant improvements in both their diabetes and depression in a 12 week study that combined Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with exercise. Her research shows great promise for this difficult to treat population.
The findings of the American Psychological Association with regard to exercise, and the health benefits that should be emphasized and reinforced by every mental health professional to their patients include the following:
Increased interest in sex
Improvement in mood
Increased energy and stamina
Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness
The APA says that the benefits can be had with as little as 30 minutes of walking per day. The walking does not even have to be continuous, it can be divided into three 10 minute walks or even two 15 minute walks. Certainly one can do more exercise than this, these are the minimums.
So it looks like that not everything learned in Latin class was a waste of time. Twenty-first century research indicates that Juvenal was correct, a healthy body is an essential component of having a healthy mind and the results can be had within five minutes. Making exercise a habit, and part of your lifestyle, is not difficult. A little consistency and self-discipline will get you started. You’ll soon enjoy the benefits of the exercise effect, and it will become automatic. Try exercise as a mind-body solution before you reach for that bottle of medication. Work with your doctor to create a regimen that works for you.
“When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.”― Augusten Burroughs
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