As we have all experienced, there is something about exercise that can change one’s mental habits and behavior. Building character, relieving stress, and enhancing focus and learning are touted as benefits of exercise. Perhaps less known, one’s perception of an exercise, food item, or supplement can influence how the body responds to the exercise, food item, or supplement. As such, mental habits and behavior can alter processes in the body1. How does this work?
FNS2 is an exploration of how physical activities shape the brain, mental habits and behavior2and how mental habits and behavior influence the condition and function of the body. We will develop tools to help ourselves and our clients achieve the benefits of mindful3 exercises and exercise programs.
This typically involves encouraging clients to push through perceived or real limitations, working hard, or a nudge to “Just do it”.
Emotional and physical stress, exercise, and the brain – Under specific conditions, contracting muscles produce hormones that can activate genes in the brain that reduce the negative affects of stress on the brain and the subsequent responses by the body. We will study the relationship between muscular activity and brain health in detail so that we can design exercise experiences to facilitate brain health. In addition, we will review the affects of stress (both physical and mental) on the multiple systems of the body4. As a part of this topic, we will explore:
• How physical and mental stress contribute to building character, relieving stress, and enhancing focus and learning
• The literature and proposed mechanisms for how the hormonal products of exercise may influence depression, addiction, and some eating disorders.
• How exercise can produce hormones that prepare the brain to structurally change.
• Potential consequences of misunderstanding the “Just do it” mindset.
Interoception and the interoceptive cortex: the sensory pathway from the body to the brain that helps determine how you feel – The sense of how you are doing is created by specific sensory information from the body5 being delivered to a specific area of the forebrain. There, the information about the status of the body generates our experience of how we feel. As exercise professionals, we are often expected to inspire our clients to keep going in spite of interoceptive feedback signaling them to do less or to stop. We will investigate technology and methods to objectively and subjectively evaluate the amount of exercise that a client is ready to tolerate during a session.
The nocebo and placebo effects – These mind-bending effects are often misunderstood or ignored. They play a significant role in how the body responds to therapeutic intervention, exercises, and nutrition. We will probe the relationship between the nocebo and placebo effects and our mental habits and behavior. We will also delve into how the nocebo and placebo effects influence the physiology of the body and the composition of the microbiome6. We will cover:
• Precisely what are the nocebo and placebo effects, their mechanisms of action, what they are known to influence and what they can not influence. It goes well beyond pain.
• How what one thinks about can influence the hormonal responses to food and nutrient absorption.
• How to create a therapeutic or exercise environment to improve the impact of the therapy or exercise.
Body, brain, mind and consciousness: The malleable and inextricable relationship between the mind and the body – This is a massive topic. We attempt to define the mind and consciousness, and their relationship to the brain and body. After that, we’ll construct strategies to train mental habits and behavior while training the body.
• Hypothesis: The mind and body are being trained during exercise whether it is realized or not. Therefore, as you exercise, your thoughts, attitudes and patterns of behavior must be skillfully curated in order to achieve and maintain your goals.
Furthermore, strategically training mental habits and behavior while exercising is the difference between attaining and maintaining goals, and giving up or regressing.
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There will be dozens of references to published literature provided to explore these claims↩
I am avoiding the use of the word “mind” because it is a vast topic that requires clarification and definition. In class, we attempt to understand the meaning of mind and its origins.↩
Ooph, there it is!↩
The brain, spinal cord, endocrine system, and skeletal muscle↩
small diameter neuronal input from viscera, muscle, joints, teeth, skin, nociception, and thermoreception.(Craig, A.D. (Bud). How Do You Feel?: An Interoceptive Moment with Your Neurobiological Self (p. 4). Princeton University Press.)↩
“The definition of a human microbiome is all the microbial microbes that live in and on our bodies but also all the genes — all the metabolic capabilities they bring to supporting human health.” (Stein, R. (2012, June 13). Finally, A Map Of All The Microbes On Your Body. Retrieved November 28, 2017, from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/06/13/154913334/finally-a-map-of-all-the-microbes-on-your-body)↩