Learning About The Benefits Of Exercise

Bernard the bear

Today, our guest was Katie, from the Healthy Active Minds Programme.  She came to talk to us about what she does as part of Edinburgh Leisure and how exercise can help to improve our mental health.  Anyone with mild to moderate mental health problems like depression, anxiety or stress can be referred to the programme by their doctor, where a Healthy Active Minds Instructor will gentle introduce someone to a fitness programme which suits them and is individually tailored.

For further information please click this link; http://about.edinburghleisure.co.uk/what-we-do/physical-activity-health/healthy-active-minds/

We talked about how important it is that someone can start exercising at a level they feel able to manage and build on it from there; for some people this may mean that they begin with a five minute workout.  Katie said they get asked what is the best kind of exercise to do; the best kind of exercise anyone can do is something they will enjoy.  Some people love team sports where as others prefer to plug in their music and escape into something they do by themselves whereas others prefer group exercise because there is a social aspect to this.  For other people, their chosen activity may not be recognised as a sport, such as gardening or even housework, but being active in these ways will still achieve all the benefits.

So what are all these great benefits and how does exercise actually help us? 


Our very scientific sketch of the brain shows that drugs (such as heroin) latch onto opioid receptors in the brain giving us a nice warm pleasant feeling and blocking out any kind of pain; the problem is that this stuff hangs around in the hypothalamus and this can lead to addiction. What happens when we exercise, is that the brain releases endorphins.  These natural pain killers latch onto the opioid receptors creating pleasure, (sometimes known as ‘the runners high’) and lessening pain.  But, it’s all natural, and unlike opiates, endorphins are dispersed by the body and so do not cause harmful addiction.

We also explored some of the benefits of eating more naturally.  Highly processed and sweet foods contain something known as a high glucose index (G.I).  This means that these foods quickly release sugar into our systems rising our blood sugar quickly giving us a burst of energy, followed by a crash which leaves us reaching for the next sugary snack. Follow this pattern and we find ourselves on a roller-coaster and it’s hard to get off, but not impossible.  We get addicted to sugar, so we do have cravings and if you are trying to eat better and feel awful it’s helpful to know why, but cravings pass and our systems even out.  Katie’s nutritional advice to us on this was to eat as naturally as possible, anything which grows from the ground or lives on the ground, or grows or lives in the sea is probably a good guide, as is anything with less than five ingredients listed.  We learned that while fruit juice is good, a piece of fruit is better because it contains all the range of nutrients and not just the sugary juice, and some were disappointed to learn that sausage rolls do not fall into the category of a natural food.  We all tried a beetroot dip for lunch because it’s good to try anything healthy once! (Beetroot is becoming popular for aiding good blood pressure and blood flow to the brain)   The verdict was that we’d eat it again.


The group would like to thank Katie for giving up her time to be at the group today.

Below is a fun, lighthearted look at using the gym!

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