Counseling Sheet

Exercise and its Influence on the Mind

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

For centuries, it has been recognized that being out-of-doors has a beneficial effect on mental functioning as well as physical strength. In recent decades, negative air ions have been discovered out-of-doors, particularly near large bodies of water and heavy vegetation. If elderly people are kept out-of-doors, they think less of their physical illnesses and have fewer complaints. In one experiment, 16 subjects were kept in a controlled atmosphere at which the level of negative ions was monitored. The subjects performed such tasks as reasoning, psychomotor activity, and memory and search tasks. It could not be detected in these experiments that negative air ions influence thought processes. (Ref. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1982, 54:403-412)

The good effects of negative air ions are apparently mediated through the neurotransmitter serotonin. Negative air ions decrease the level of serotonin in body tissue. It has been claimed that high levels of positive ions associated with atmospheric conditions preceding warm dry winds produce unpleasant reactions in weather-sensitive individuals. These reactions include migraines, irritability, palpitations, etc., closely resembling the serotonin irritation syndrome. (Danon, A., and Sulman. Biometeorology, 13:135-136, 19-59)

Institutionalized geriatric mental patients showed considerable improvement in their ability to perform simple intellectual skills involving recognition, reasoning, judgment, etc. These patients in whom exercise therapy was used were compared with similar patients in whom social therapy or no therapy was administered during a 12-week test period. (Ref. Journal of Gerontology, March 1974)

In another test in chronic psychiatric patients, one group was given a jogging program under supervision, and compared with a similar group of chronic patients who received the same amount of attention but no jogging. There was significantly less anxiety after the jogging program was instituted, as compared to the patients who did not enter the jogging program. (Ref. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1978, 47:1215-1218)

A group of 50 students between 17 and 21 years of age did step-ups for physical activity and then performed mental functions such as simple arithmetic. If the students were given vigorous exercise for 2 to 5 minutes duration, there was a significant increase in mental work ability. However, if the physical activity was maintained at the same high level for 10 to 15 minutes, there was a significant decrease in the ability to perform simple arithmetic problems. This illustrates the very fine principle of "vigorous though not violent exercise," as the most ideal form of exercise for both physical as well as mental and emotional health. (Ref. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 38:205-6, 1974)

A similar result showing that vigorous though not violent exercise is superior was obtained by Powell who found that stressful exercise had a possible detrimental effect upon the metabolic environment of the brain. He found that sub-maximal types of exercise have beneficial effects upon brain function. Both immediate and long term improvement in mental alertness with submaximal exercise characterized his investigation, assisting in scholastic success of students. (Ref. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness)

Contact Us For More Information

Uchee Pines Lifestyle Center
30 Uchee Pines Road #75
Seale, Alabama 36875