Why You Should Encourage Your Clients to Exercise

While exercising regularly promotes physical health, exercising may also provide cognitive benefits. Specifically, attention has been drawn to the potential clinical implications of moderate-intensity exercise for rehabilitation, physical, and mental health.  In this blog post, we discuss and elaborate upon the clinically studied benefits of exercise and why clinicians should encourage their clients to perform aerobic exercise routines in their daily lives.

Exercise Promotes Brain Health and Skill Learning

Researchers have found that aerobic exercise promotes the upregulation of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum, and spinal cord. Most studies examining the effects of aerobic exercise on BDNF expression have been done in animal models. However, human studies have shown increases in BDNF after aerobic exercise in blood samples. BDNF is involved in promoting the connection between neurons and has been studied for its role in motor and cognitive rehabilitation post-stroke. These findings are important for rehabilitation post-stroke, as experiencing a stroke breaks many neural connections and the healing process can cause neural pathways to rewire unfavorably.

Clinical Example – Patients with Stroke

In patients with stroke, researchers have found improvements in executive functioning and memory after a 12-week and 6-month moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training program done 2-3 times per week. Another study found that an 8-week aerobic cycling program improved motor skill acquisition in patients with stroke. With the growing research on BDNF’s role in neuroplasticity and the studied benefits of aerobic exercise, clinical providers working with stroke populations may want to help their patients find an exercise program that works for them.

Exercise Promotes Psychological Well-Being

Many people report the feeling of a “runner’s high” after a satisfying run. Beyond this phenomenon, regular exercise has proven to promote psychological well-being. South African researchers found that people who regularly exercised for at least 30-minutes a session at least 3 times a week experienced positive and satisfaction moods, lived healthier lifestyles, and had better stress management and coping skills. Another study compared university hockey players, regular health club-goers, and non-exercisers on their psychological well-being and physical self-perception. Not surprisingly, both university hockey players and regular health club-goers reported better psychological well-being and physical self-perception than people who did not exercise.

Age does not impact the reception of the many benefits of engaging in physical activity. Both clinical and healthy populations can reap health benefits from moderate-intensity exercise. A meta-analysis of the effects of physical activity on psychological well-being in aging populations revealed that moderate physical activity had additional benefits for the aging population.  People who exercise in their later years of life, not only improved cardiovascular health, strength, and functionality but also helped people be more self-efficacious and provide individuals a sense of “skill mastery”.  These additional senses of mastering combined with the health benefits improved psychological well-being and emotional health of the aging population.

Exercise Can Lead to Healthy Eating Habits

Eating healthy and exercising are lifestyle choices that can help manage and prevent many health complications. So why do not more people follow them? Because both of these behaviors involve high cognitive thinking, planning, control, self-regulation, and modified satisfaction perception. While much more research needs to be done on the role of exercise there is a greater influence on eating habits. Medical and athletic professionals emphasize making healthy choices that help your body get the nutrients it needs to function. 

In a study of patients with a medical condition that required  orthopedic or cardiac services, researchers found that self-regulated exercise post-discharge led to increased exercise habits and fruit and vegetable intake. This is important as many people may resume previous poor health habits that caused them to need services. A healthy diet can help people manage their health by regulating weight and preventing health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. 

Sometimes, people with cognitive problems have difficulty making food choices that benefit their health. Grocery shopping and meal preparation are activities that require many cognitive skills. Regulating eating behavior is also cognitive, and many clinical populations struggle with overeating. To help your clients, you may want to consider providing cognitive remediation therapy for your clients to help them improve cognitive skills needed for pro-health behaviors. By providing this kind of cognitive therapy, you may help your client prevent health complications that could cause them to reinjure themselves or need further medical assistance. 

Conclusion 

Exercise benefits are more than just running faster or being able to lift heavier objects. Exercising may help people recover from a stroke, improve psychological well-being, and cause people to adopt healthy lifestyle choices. Clinicians working with neurological, psychiatric, and geriatric populations should consider and ask their clients about their exercise habits. 

Your clients may tell you that they feel too sad to exercise or they do not feel confident in their ability to do certain physical activities. However, by introducing a cognitive rehabilitation program focused on completing small tasks, you may be able to positively influence their confidence. This could help them build strategies to incorporate pro-health behaviors into their daily lives and in return, can help your client learn to live a healthy lifestyle and increase the longevity of their life. 

Disclosure

With any exercise program or health behavior, your client should always consult with their physician before starting to ensure their safety and well-being prior to participation. Encouraging your client to find an exercise program that is safe and feasible for them can help them take charge of their physical and mental health and prevent them from experiencing further ailments related to changeable lifestyle choices.

Dustin Luchmee
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin is HappyNeuron Pro's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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