When we talk about health and fitness I know that your first though will be about running further, lifting heavier, bigger muscles or less body fat. There might be other things that you think about, but by and large your first thought will be about some physical component of your body. This type of thinking is great – most of us could do with some improvements in our physical body. But there is more to health than our physical body and when we embark on a health and lifestyle change program I’d suggest that physical changes should only encompass 50% of what we should be monitoring for and hoping to improve.

The other side of health, as I call it, involves the non-physical components of our body. I’ve long been an advocate of measuring and tracking improvements in mental health because out of all of the benefits that exercise and healthy eating provides us with it is the improvements in our mental state that this brings that will ultimately provide us with the most satisfaction in our training programs. I know this because I have seen it time and time again over the decade that I have been doing this work.

So what are the types of mental health benefits that exercise can provide us with? Here is a short list of just some of the things that I know that you are experiencing right now due to your training program;

–          Reduction of depression (studies show that exercise is as effective in treating depression as anti-depressant medication)

–          Reduction of anxiety (again, studies show that regular exercise reduces anxiety comparably to medication)

–          Reduction of stress (exercise will cause the release of a huge array of hormones and substances in the brain that can reduce stress)

–          Improve sleep quality (people who exercise regularly are able to maintain the deep sleep state that allows a more restful and effective sleep)

–          Improve brain function (the same hormones and substances that are released during exercise will help to improve things such as memory)

There are more, but the above are the main benefits that you will experience. I offer my clients a semi-regular questionnaire to complete that can objectively measure their improvements in these areas so that we can see just how beneficial exercise to these areas of their health.

So what is the point of this article? I’d like you to appreciate and perhaps start looking at your training in a different way and not obsess so much on your physical improvements and changes. In my opinion it is the changes in your psychology that provides the most tangible and practical benefits to your life. Talk to your trainer about how you can monitor these changes so that you are not only measuring the physical side of your health, but the ‘other side of health’ as well.

Yours in health!

Chris Dounis


Senior Personal Trainer – Fit n Fast St Peters

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