The mind and the body really are one and the same. They are part of the same interconnected system, and the state of one always affects the other at a fundamental level. The brain is an organ, just like the heart or the lungs, and all are intertwined via the same neurological, respiratory and circulatory systems.
Because of this, it is impossible to fully address the health of the mind without also taking into account the factors affecting the health of the rest of the body (and vice versa). People seeking advice from therapists for issues such as anxiety and depression can benefit tremendously if they also have the support of a good personal trainer. Tackling complex mental and emotional issues can be much more manageable with a good diet and nutrition as a foundation.
Here are some reasons why therapists and personal trainers should create partnerships to treat clients in a holistic fashion, providing them with the happiest, healthiest life possible:
Feeling happier and finding healthy ways to manage negative feelings are things any therapist would want for their clients, and exercise has a reputation for being one of the best forms of stress release. Not only does it flood the brain with lots of “happy chemicals” (ie. neurotransmitters such as endorphins), it also has the incredible ability to actually stimulate the production of new brain cells!
This predominantly happens in the hippocampus, an area involved with mood regulation. This is huge, because having a larger area of the brain devoted to regulating mood often leads to a greater sense of internal control, feeling more capable of handling the stressors of daily life, and decreased feelings of depression and anxiety.
Additionally, unlike some other common forms of stress release, exercise stands out as being actually healthy for you. This contributes to feeling happy afterward (instead of guilty), and makes it a much better candidate for a frequent coping strategy.
Feeling more confident is a common goal in therapy, and a good workout routine can make this attainable much faster!
One of the obvious ways it does this is through improved body image. No one can deny that losing fat, gaining muscle, and obtaining a leaner/more toned physique feels amazing. Even if you don’t completely transform your body, making small steps can have an enormous impact on how you feel about yourself (especially when this is done in a healthy way).
Doing the right exercises also has an enormous impact on posture - and studies have shown that simply standing up straighter helps significantly with feeling more confident and at ease with others! This is a great example of the interconnectedness of the mind and body. The brain is frequently looking to the body for cues about how to feel and why it should feel this way, so if the body is behaving confidently, the brain will follow suit.
Finally, something has to be said about the simple act of getting stronger (or faster, or more powerful, or gaining better endurance). Being able to accomplish feats with your body that previously seemed impossible is something that will make anyone gain a new appreciation for themselves!
Lack of motivation is a common symptom of many issues one might reach out to a therapist for (such as depression), and exercise is actually great at combating this as well.
Success is one of the greatest motivators out there, and a proper workout program (especially when coached by a capable trainer) is full of little successes every step of the way. Lifting more weight, beating the best time, losing a few pounds, gaining a few pounds, drinking more water - all these are celebrated along the way to make the client feel proud and capable. Clients are encouraged to focus on the positive, be persistent, and not let missteps or plateaus discourage them from giving up.
After weeks and months of hard work, nothing quite beats the feeling of finally achieving your initial fitness goal (especially if it felt daunting at first). You feel on top of the world like you can achieve the impossible. It’s an incredible ego boost, and you’re left looking at a world of new opportunities. This is an excellent mindset to be in during a therapy session!
A final reason a therapist might want to turn to a personal trainer for help in working with their clients is due to the fact that making healthy, positive choices in one area of your life (ie. fitness) has a tendency to make you want to behave similarly in other areas.
People generally don’t like to feel like they’re contradicting themselves. Therefore, if they spend several hours a week devoting time to making their bodies healthier, they will feel less inclined to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or eat junk food. They start to see themselves as a healthy person, and as a healthy person, they make healthier decisions.
If someone feels energetic and confident, is less frequently overwhelmed by stress, rarely gets sick, and feels motivated to take action towards bettering their life - this is a perfect opportunity for counseling to have its full therapeutic effects.
It’s clear that personal trainers can help therapists’ clients excel in many different ways; however, in order for this to work, open communication and collaboration is a must. Therapists and trainers must ensure that their beliefs, ideologies, and methods align. They must be in tune with each other in administering treatment and support, to make sure the client stays on track and doesn’t have to deal with conflicting strategies. When a fitting partnership is formed, then many clients will reap the benefits of excelling towards a holistically fulfilling life!
About The Author:
Kat earned her BA in Psychology at the University of British Columbia, before carrying on to complete her Certified Fitness Trainer certificate with the International Sports Sciences Association. She believes the two specializations complement each other beautifully in providing people with both the knowledge and drive needed to achieve a happier, healthier life. Currently working out of a beautiful studio in Vancouver, B.C., she also offers mobile training to help integrate fitness as seamlessly as possible into her clients’ lives.