Regular exercise is good for us. We all know that. Most of the time, we think of the advantages for our physique: better stamina, more mobility and still being able to fit into clothes. It is much more exciting to look at the benefits for our mental abilities. This has been done by a group of researchers led by Professor Felipe Schuch (Brazilian Universidade Federal de Santa Maria) in long-term studies. They have accompanied more than 200,000 mentally healthy people over a period of 7 1/2 years. Here is the link to the summary of the studies (2018): / links / cf80b7a299andbfical-Activity-Activity-A299andbf1f Meta-Analysis-of-Prospective-Cohort-Studies.pdf

It is an essential finding that people who are particularly active, i.e. 30 minutes 5 times a week (150 minutes per week) have a 30% lower risk of developing depression in the future. But even those who only exercised moderately had a 15% reduced risk of mental illness. That means we can all use exercise as medicine.

In one study, the researchers found that 10 minutes a day of light activity such as walking or cycling had a significant effect on our brain, especially on our hippocampus. People with depression often have a reduced hippocampus volume and an increased number of inflammatory markers. Among other things, the hippocampus is responsible for processing emotions. Light physical movement can improve the structure of our brain and stimulate the growth of hormones such as BDNF (which protects and promotes the formation of neurons and synapses).

In another study, researchers assigned a control group to exercise little and sit as much as possible (healthy people in their twenties). After a week!!! the researchers found that the subjects‘ stress levels had increased. Compared to the other group who moved normally. In addition, the group asked to sit had elevated markers of depression. This means that even if we are healthy but move less, we increase our sense of stress. Exercise is all the more important in winter, when the weather is not so inviting.

In summary, this evaluation of the studies means that light and regular exercise brings about a significant improvement in our mental abilities and strengths. Small changes made consciously and consistently.

My tip: Find a form of exercise that you can enjoy and start making small changes in your daily life. Working in the garden for 10 minutes a day, dancing to your favorite music or taking a leisurely walk not only improves your mood, but also increases your self-confidence and strengthens your well-being in challenging times.