Foto: Sonja Zakharova

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

Fit for Life – A Monthly Based Column with the Best Exercises of the Month

Text: Outi Autere


It is the year 2016. Years seem to pass by faster the older you get. Depending on your relationship to yourself and with yourself, life can float pass you without you even really realising it. Or, you can choose to make the most out of it, through its sorrows and its delights. Reaching a connection with yourself where you really live and seize each moment can be achieved in number of ways, however the importance of being present and true to oneself cannot never be highlighted enough.

Lacking a connection with yourself may result from repressed feelings that for some reasons were not safe to feel as a child or from circumstances where survival has become more important than to work of one’s mind. The problems start to pile when there are no room or safe space to feel.

Luckily, over recent years, even our western society has finally started to approve the connection with our mental minds and our physical bodies and thought as an entity. Therefore they cannot be treated or dealt though they were entirely separate. Put simply, your thoughts can have a great influence on the way your body works, just as how what you do with your body can effect your mental well-being. Mental well-being means that you are feeling positive both about yourself and the world around you.

Everyone knows how great it feels after a good workout, or, how even a short walk after a long day in the office can make you feel quickly relaxed and reborn again. That alone should be enough to realize that mind works better when connected to a healthy body – as the ancient Romans pointed out long ago; Mens sana in corpore sano (healthy mind in healthy body).

There are also clinical evidences showing a link between physical activity and mental well-being. Physical activity causes chemical changes in the brain by releasing neurotransmitters like endorphins, which have a direct relationship with the elevation of mood by increasing feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. This means that physical activity can, not only protect people from anxiety and depression, but also cure it. Scientists have actually found that being physically active is as effective at curing depression as drugs or therapy.

Say what?!

Yes, being physically active is as effective at curing depression as drugs or therapy.

 This result came from a summary of 39 different evidence-based studies made by Cochrane Community, a global, non-profit organisation of health practitioners, researchers and patient advocates free from commercial sponsorship or other conflicts of interest. Perhaps now it makes more sense, since the research is not commercially driven, but instead simply for the purpose of helping others. This is not to say that the value of drugs or therapy should be cheapened or degraded (in many cases their effects have been found to be valuable), but to raise awareness about how the human body and mind are interconnected, and therefore demonstrate the size of the impact one can achieve with personal life choices alone.

Feeling blue, tired or depressed can leave you low in energy, which makes getting active more difficult. However, being active doesn’t necessarily mean hours in the gym, sweaty group classes or competitive sports. You can do housework, mow the lawn or walk to places you used to go by bus or by car. The only thing that matters is getting started. To repeat that: the only thing that matters is getting started. After that it gets easier every time. The resulting decrease in depression is shown to be greater the heavier and more regular exercise is – but anything is better than nothing. There are no disadvantages for health in exercises carried out properly, yet there are multiple disadvantages associated with immobility.

Life, as we understand it, is a complex thing. Since the early ages, the meaning of life has been contemplated, whilst the concept of having a good life is pretty subjective and culturally dependent. However, time goes by with or without us in it, so as long as we are here, wouldn’t it be nicer to be part of it – mentally AND physically?

Illustration: Sonja Zakharova
Illustration: Sonja Zakharova

EXERCISES OF THE MONTH (All full-body blasts):

A combination of a front squat and a push press. Starting position is with the barbell (with suitable weight, or for beginners no weight at all) in the rack position (across the chest and shoulders), the athlete squats (hips go below knees) and then stands, driving the barbell overhead, arms straight.

Wall Ball

Squat down using athlete squats. As you return to standing, toss a large medicine ball to the height of 2,5m (or higher) with a standing distance 0,5-1m from the wall. Catch the ball on the way down to the squat position.

Overhead Kettlebell Swing

Start with the kettlebell about 30cm in front of you on the ground. Hinge (not squat) forward to grab the kettlebell. Swing the kettlebell between your legs while keeping it high and tight. Forcefully thrust your hips to move the bell forward and above your head, keeping your arms straight. It is super important to squeeze the glutes and abdominals to prevent damage to the lower back. Bring the kettlebell back between the legs with control and repeat without stopping the movement.


Begin in a standing position. Drop into a squat with your hands on the floor and then kick your feet back to a push-up position before lowering into a push up. Rapidly return your feet to their standing position, then explode up, jumping from the ground and bringing your hands over your head. Land softly and continue with the next rep right away.

N.B. Burpee is the best (and most hated) exercise ever!