It seems like the more and more you watch the news these days “evil”, “sick”, “crazy” people are shooting innocent victims left and right in shopping malls, movie theaters, schools, public transportation and..well the list goes on and on.
One underlying reason we can probably all agree on is that these shooters and murderers suffer from some type of mental disorder or sickness. And I would think that their self-worth is very low in the first place in order to commit these heinous crimes.
Included in the discussions about possible gun control and background checks should be access to and better understanding of exercise. Evidence has suggested that exercise may be an often-neglected intervention in mental health care. Experts believe that exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good; it can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. It has been observed to be very beneficial for people who are feeling sad or anxious. Some recent research shows that people who exercise 2.5 to 7.5 hours a week have much better mental health.
So how can we implement exercise into the big picture of things? I say that we first stop cutting out PE classes and recess at schools. We have to give our children the best possible foundation and base to be productive and physically and mentally healthy adults. Second, we have to parlay social networking and social media into creating actual physical events and projects for people to meet-up and participate together in a physical manner. Events that get them moving such as run-walks, softball leagues, history and nature walks etc. Facebook pages and twitter accounts can connect people, but what good is it if it’s giving people false senses of connection and identity, and breeds self-absorption, narcissism, egocentrism, and overestimation of one’s own importance and abilities? People still need to be people and that includes face to face interactions. Third, we have to continue to build healthy communities with things like parks and bike paths because natural environments filled with beautiful greenery, colorful flowers, mountains and bodies of water are ideal locations for physical exercise. We can put more emphasis on and encourage participation in community sporting leagues. Faith based organizations could champion the cause of healthy lifestyle to their congregations. Fitness and health coaches could offer to volunteer more of their time in communities to help spread the message of exercise and eating healthy. Local, State, and Federal governments can offer incentives for people and companies to practice healthy lifestyles.
The importance of exercise is still not adequately understood or appreciated by mental health professionals. They need a sense of urgency for helping to build a healthier nation, and with that we’ll all discover that not only does exercise and eating healthy prevent and cure our chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cancer and heart disease; but we’ll also discover that it will reduce mental sickness in our population.
With better mental health in our society, hopefully these senseless shooting tragedies that dominate our news cycle each day will become few and far between.
Jack Witt, MS, CPT
Fitness and Health Coach