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Vee Payne


June 13, 2023

Personal Training and Mental Health

Coming from personal experience as someone who struggles with anxiety and bipolar disorder, I have noticed a serious difference in my mental health between the times in my life where I was active versus when I was inactive. The physical exertion helps me to alleviate the tension built up from anxiety and burn through some of the overwhelming energy that can come with manic swings, while improving my self image and getting stronger helps a ton with combatting my depression. 

 While the benefits of physical activity are clear, there is much debate on what exactly causes this improvement. Some scientists argue that there are several physiological mechanisms that cause these changes such as the release of endorphins or helping the body balance out certain chemical imbalances. Others have pointed to the psychological aspect, referencing the improved self efficacy and body image, along with simply helping to distract the mind from negative and intrusive thoughts. A newer line of thought is also considering the role of exercise in reducing inflammation in various points of the body that contribute to inflammatory diseases like COPD and Alzheimer’s. 

 One condition that comes with these benefits is that it requires consistency. Don’t expect to suddenly feel as though you’ve never been depressed a day in your life. This fact can deter a lot of people that sometimes struggle just getting out of bed to start the process. While the recommended amount of physical activity a week is 150 minutes, studies showed improvements for people with a consistent routine of just 15 minutes, three days a week. Even just a one minute walk once a week is a step in the right direction. Starting this process and slowly becoming more and more consistent can provide a structure to your life that can then build into other aspects of your life. 

Unfortunately, as with all good things, though there are numerous positives to physical exercise there come some risks. Injury is an obvious risk that is always present, especially when just starting any sort of physical activity. The biggest concern I find when combined with mental illness however is exercise addiction. This is another thing that I have personally experienced as someone who struggles with self image issues and has dealt with an eating disorder in the past. Trying to obtain “The Perfect Body” can become an unhealthy obsession that people strive for, especially in a superficial society. Whatever reason this addiction sets in, people get it into their minds that they have to work out as much as possible to achieve their goals or grind away the body that they dislike, but this overworks your body and begins to negatively affect your physical and mental health.

Those last two things, consistency and the risk of injury and overworking, bring me to my final point, finding a personal trainer. Personal training can be the key to unlocking the full potential of the mental health benefits of physical activity. Maintaining consistency is hard, but having someone working with you and holding you accountable can give the support needed to make that challenge easier. Working with your trainer to set attainable goals, find manageable ways to be active, and prepare for lapses in your consistency are invaluable services that trainers live to provide. Additionally, having someone knowledgeable about the body and exercise keeping an eye on you and helping schedule out your activity plan drastically reduces the risk of injury and overworking. 

All in all, while starting the process of exercise and increasing physical activity can be an absolutely overwhelming task for those like myself who struggle every day with mental illness, the benefits are so worth the effort. I promise the process is easier than you think and there are people all over the place ready to provide the help and support to get started, and once you get the ball rolling, it only gets easier.

- Vee Payne, Personal Trainer at Pittsburgh FIT

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