Mental and physical (MAP) training is a clinical intervention that combines aerobic exercise and meditation training to improve cognition. Stressful life events can cause toxic effects on the mind and body but MAP training has shown to improve mental and physical outcomes in these stressful situations. A study published in Translational Psychiatry investigated the benefits of MAP on major depressive disorder.
MAP training tested
Fifty-two participants were enrolled in this study; about half were controls and the other half had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). The study had these 52 participants undergo 30 minutes of focused-attention meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The participants performed these exercises twice a week for two months. Concluding this eight-week study, the participants with MDD were found to have a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, giving rise to the theory that MAP does have clinical significance.
These findings support the authors’ belief in neurogenesis. The hippocampus is an area in the brain that is responsible for memory and learning. Earlier research has shown that new neuronal growth, known as neurogenesis, can occur secondary to physical exercise. So it is true that working out makes you smarter.
“Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise greatly increases the number of new neurons that are produced in the hippocampal formation. In contrast, mental training via skill learning increases the numbers that survive, particularly when the training goals are challenging. Both manipulations can increase cognitive performance in the future, some of which are reportedly mediated by the presence of new neurons in the adult hippocampus. Based on these data, we suggest that a combination of mental and physical training, referred to here as MAP training, is more beneficial for neuronal recruitment and overall mental health than either activity alone,” according to an article abstract.
A potent combination
Exercise not only can improve people’s mental health, but it can also improve their physical health. Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, helping to prevent heart disease, diabetes and hyperlipidemia. Taking time out of your day to exercise can stimulate your mind and keep your body healthy.
In addition, many different kinds of meditation programs, both video and audio, can help guide mental focus to improve mental health. A meditation program, however, is not necessary for an individual to experience peaceful meditation. One can simply sit in silence and meditate on the present. The goal of meditation is to focus the mind on the present moment and not drift back to the past or leap forward to the future.
The combination of both of these techniques may make it possible for people with depression to decrease the use of pharmacological therapy and increase physical and mental well-being through MAP.
Sovereign Health of California is a leading behavioral health care provider with locations across the United States that treat people with addiction, mental health disorders like depression, and dual diagnosis. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a senior staff writer at the Sovereign Health Group and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author, who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.