Improving mental health one step at a time

Dave Mathieson
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Laura Coleman helped put 65 minds in motion with a pre-walk warm up to the Minds in Motion two-kilometre walk Wednesday in Amherst. The walk was a fundraiser for the Cumberland Health Care Foundation Mental Health Fund, which helps support mental health programs at the YMCA.

AMHERST – Exercise washes the brain with feel-good chemicals, and about 65 people gave their brains a power wash yesterday at the Cumberland YMCA.

The wash came courtesy the Minds in Motion two-kilometre walk during the noon-hour.

“Exercise is good for mental health,” said Pam Chenhall, mental health therapist with Mental Health Services in Amherst, and one of the organizers of the event.

Mental health services partnered with the YMCA and the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, Cumberland chapter to host the event.

Chenhall says exercise is an important part of mental health, and she actually prescribes exercise to her patients.

“It’s a very simple and accessible way for people to take charge of their own mental health, in addition to what other treatment might be recommended depending on what diagnosis they have,” she said.

Mental Health Services hosts a bi-weekly exercise program for clients at the YMCA.

It’s part of their ‘Working Together’ program, which is a large component of mental health rehabilitation.

“Walking is a big part of what we do at Mental Health Services,” said Chenhall. “Not just the clients who come to the YMCA but all our clients.

“The groups usually have about eight to 10 people, so we have about 25 people all together who are involved in one way, shape or form with the program,” she added.

“We ask them whether they have a regular exercise routine, because research has shown that exercise is a great contributor to mental health in many ways.”

The endorphins produced in the brain by exercise give both short-term and long-term benefits.

“A walk can be a short-term activity to cool off from a disagreement or it can be a commitment to regular activity, which contributes to lower anxiety levels and boost mood when it comes to depression,” said Chenhall.

Exercise can also reduce fatigue.

“The energy you put out creates more energy, so people who come for a workout at lunch get through the rest of the day without feeling drowsy or tired.”

Exercise also provides an opportunity for her clients to socialize and develop relationships.

“Sometimes we’ll see people walking out together on days that aren’t program days,” said Chenhall. “Social connections are a huge piece of rehabilitation as well. Something like what we did today creates social networks, which are really important in terms of long-term mental health.”

The event usually raises about $200.

The money goes towards Cumberland Health Care Foundation Mental Health Fund, specifically, mental health programs at the YMCA.

Chenhall gave special thanks to the many volunteers who helped make the walk a success, and also thanked students from Pugwash District High School, and peer councilors from Amherst Regional High School, who made a financial contribution to the fund.














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