Jennifer J. Heisz, Associate Professor in McMaster University’s Department of Kinesiology, directs the NeuroFit Lab, which has garnered more than $1 million to support a research program on the effects of exercise on brain health. Dr. Heisz completed her degrees with a MA in Cognitive Neuroscience (McMaster) and a postdoctoral fellowship in Brain Health and Aging at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Hospital (Toronto).
In her latest book, “Move the Body, Heal the Mind”, Heisz synthesized her scientific academic side with her own experience and tried to explain the relationship between mind and body. For example, she explained how regular exercise can be good for anxiety:
“At the end of each workout, you typically get a brief relief from anxiety due to the increase in neuropeptide Y. This is a durability factor. It helps calm the anxious amygdala, the part of the brain that senses danger and puts us on high alert. For the past few years, with the pandemic, our amygdala has been in a hyper-vigilant state and has been having an almost constant stress response. By upregulating neuropeptide Y, exercise helps calm the anxious amygdala, reduce fear and hypervigilance, and keep us calmer.”
Mentioning that exercise plans can also affect our thinking mechanism in her book, Heisz says, “By training your body to act more creatively, you can make your mind think more creatively.”
Although it is obvious that various exercises are beneficial for mental health, she also states that very intense and challenging sports should not be done. She states that if you are already feeling very stressed and under pressure, pushing yourself extra will not help as you think. She says that individuals struggling with anxiety should prefer exercises aimed at relaxation and away from coercion.
The readers say that their vision surprisingly expands after reading and they have made various positive conclusions with their own solutions proving that we all need to be at least as sensitive to our mental health as our physical health. We can also affect our minds negatively during the period of time we are away from physical exercise without being aware of it. In this book, scientist and researcher Jennifer Heisz explores how physical activity can improve mental function in many categories (mental illness, memory, addiction, sleep, etc.) and explains it in understandable language. We all know that exercise is good for all of us, but unfortunately, we dismiss it as a cliché. This time, we can discover how beneficial we can be for our own health at the same time, accompanied by scientific realities and individual experiences!