mental wellness

Beyond Mental Wellness, Can Fitness Help the Brain?

Mental wellness remains a key societal concern and an area of great importance for well-run workplace wellness program that seek to help employees manage wellbeing and businesses manage overall health costs.

We recently noted  a new Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “suicide rates in the United States have risen nearly 30% since 1999, and mental health conditions are one of several factors contributing to suicide. Examining state-level trends in suicide and the multiple circumstances contributing to it can inform comprehensive state suicide prevention planning.”

We also noted a new JAMA study titled “Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms.” Or, as the New York Times reports: “Weight Training May Help to Ease or Prevent Depression.”

The study authors state: “The physical benefits of resistance exercise training (RET) are well documented, but less is known regarding the association of RET with mental health outcomes. To date, no quantitative synthesis of the antidepressant effects of RET has been conducted.”

Now a new piece suggests that fitness may also help with intelligence.

A New York Times piece explains how “How Exercise Can Help You Recall Words.” It notes that though “mental glitches are common throughout life, they become more frequent with age. Whether this is an inevitable part of growing older or somehow lifestyle-dependent is unknown. But because evidence already shows that physically fit older people have reduced risks for a variety of cognitive deficits, researchers recently looked into the relationship between aerobic fitness and word recall.”

The piece describes a recent study in Scientific Reports. It reports: “Within the older group, the inability to identify and say the right words was strongly linked to fitness. The more fit someone was, the less likely he or she was to go through a ‘what’s that word again?’ moment of mental choking.”

The piece cautions: “As an observational investigation, a one-time snapshot of human capabilities, the study cannot prove that greater fitness is what causes older brains to maintain better processing skills; it can only suggest a correlation.”

But says Katrien Segaert, a psychologist at the University of Birmingham who led the study: “Fitness has widespread effects on the brain.”