The mind-enhancing impact of exercise

This specific mindful and aerobic practice reduced depressive symptoms by 40%

Long-time runner and Medcan physician Dr. Steve Hirsch says he practises three types of meditations when he runs marathons. Hirsch, who is in his early sixties, completed his 28th marathon this year, laughs off friends’ pestering when they ask him how he doesn’t run off course.

Hirsch calls it meditation; others call it mindfulness. Now researchers say a similar mind/run routine can be used to reduce the ruminating and negative thought patterns associated with depression by as much as 40%.

Mental and performance training for depression and anxiety

Rutgers found that the mental and performance (MAP) training reduced depressive symptoms in a group of young people with major depressive disorder by an average 40%. This MAP training consisted of 20 minutes of silent sitting meditation, 10 minutes of silent walking meditation and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at moderate intensity.

This study may also explain why runners often experience the ‘runner’s high’ when they find themselves in the ‘flow’ or ‘in the zone’. Here’s an excerpt from Medcan staffer and running blogger Amy Friel.

In the day-to-day, getting “in the zone” on a mileage run can be extraordinarily useful. In psychology, this is called a flow state. Flow is a completely focused, single-minded immersion in an intrinsically rewarding task. Our emotions and impulses become channeled and contained.

“While the experience of flow is overwhelmingly satisfying and positive,” adds Friel. “It involves the sort of deep focus on nothing but the task at hand, wherein our emotions and even ourselves slip quietly away.”

Meditations adapted for running

During his marathons, Hirsch starts with an awareness meditation (actively taking in the scene, the sounds, the people with an underlying attitude of gratitude), followed by an adapted walking meditation and then a body scan, which is a different type of meditation.

Dr. Gina Di Giulio, Director of Psychology at Medcan, spoke about the different types of meditations in her online seminar, see 6:00 at this link.

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