Thoughts on Record: Podcast of the Ottawa Institute of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Exercise for Mental Health & Wellbeing

May 16, 2022 Season 3 Episode 10
Thoughts on Record: Podcast of the Ottawa Institute of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Dr. Jennifer Heisz: Exercise for Mental Health & Wellbeing
Show Notes

Engaging in regular exercise is a frequent recommendation of mental health clinicians as a way to address symptoms of anxiety & depression; however, despite clients almost universally voicing a strong belief in the benefit of exercise, it is often challenging for clients (and let's be honest, clinicians) to implement.  Professor, neuroscientist and author, Dr. Jennifer Heisz joins us for a discussion of themes contained in her new book "Move the Body, Heal the Mind".  In this discussion we cover:

  • what motivated Dr. Heisz to write her book
  • the specific mechanisms by which exercise promotes mental health
  • the kinds of activities & dosages of exercise that have been found to be effective in promoting symptom reduction, brain health etc.
  • evolutionary lens on the importance of exercise
  • the evidence/effective size with respect to the link between exercise and mental health
  • why exercise is often one of the hardest behavioural changes to get clients to engage in 
  • the importance of exercise evoking some level of physiological stress in order to generate benefits (and how could this could help clients to reframe their experience of discomfort during exercise)
  • employing exposure-informed paradigms to help clients engage in exercise
  • why rest & recovery are overlooked, but are very important aspects of training
  • compulsive vs. healthy exercise
  • the potential benefits of wearables for biofeedback, tracking sleep, measuring stress levels etc. 
  • tips for accessing the benefits of exercise when feeling depressed or anxious and energy/willpower may be hard to come by
  • the emergence of hot/cold therapies as analogs to exercise via hormesis (i.e., gently stressing the body to generate helpful adaptations)

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Dr. Jennifer J. Heisz is an expert in brain health. She is Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University (ranked Top 25 in the world) and directs the NeuroFit Lab, which has attracted nearly $1 million to support her research program on the effects of exercise for brain health. Dr. Heisz received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience (McMaster) and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Brain Health and Aging at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Hospital (Toronto). Dr. Heisz's research examines the effects of physical activity on brain function to promote mental health and cognition in young adults, older adults and individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Many honors and awards recognize Dr. Heisz for her outstanding contributions to research including the Early Researcher Award from the Government of Ontario and the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award.