6 Ways Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

We all know the physical benefits of exercise. It helps keep excess pounds at bay, increases stamina, strengthens our heart, keeps arteries clear, and wards off illness. But did you know that exercise can improve the structure and functionality of our brains, as well as improving our overall mental health?

There’s no denying exercise should be a key part of any strategy to combat depression, anxiety, and the general stress of daily life, but “green exercise” in particular, such as cycling, brings with it added psychological health benefits compared to exercising in synthetic environments such as gyms!

Recent studies suggest that exercising in nature gives a quick and significant boost to our mental health. Researchers analyzed studies encompassing more than 1,200 participants involved in outdoor activities such as cycling, walking, horseback riding, and fishing. They found that outdoor exercise improved mood and self-esteem significantly, with the biggest effects coming within just five minutes. The study also found that the trials also showed an improvement in mental well-being.

Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments is associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and enjoyment, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression. Here are six interesting ways exercise can positively affect our brains.

1. Improves cognitive functioning

The overlooked cousin of “grey matter,” white matter is comprised of millions of bundles of nerve fibers acting as the computer cables that connect various parts of the brain. Research has shown than exercise enhances white matter integrity and improves conductivity resulting in better cognitive functioning.

2. Promotes brain health

Intense exercise results in elevated levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) – an important protein that that promotes brain health and memory. BDNF prevents the death of existing brain cells and supports cognitive function. Low levels of BDNF have been linked to obesity, depression and even schizophrenia. Therefore maintaining satisfactory levels of BDNF results in optimal neurotransmission and potentially prevents a myriad of physical as well as mental diseases.

3. Improves memory and reasoning

Exercise acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation and by encouraging production of chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and the overall health of new brain cells. Studies show that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger in volume in people who exercise than in people who don’t. Exercise also boosts memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep.

4. Reduces anxiety and stress

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It produced endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Physical activity helps to relax muscles and relieve tension in the body and also improves the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.

5. Acts as a natural antidepressant

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects.  It promotes changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also increases blood flow to the brain, releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which makes you feel good.

6. Increases self-esteem

Regular activity is an investment in YOU. When it becomes habit, it increases feelings of self-worth, achievement and make you feel stronger. It also helps you feel more confident in your physical appearance too!

And if you still aren’t convinced that getting outside is worth the effort then consider this: Science also suggests that mental health may be an even stronger predictor of life expectancy than physical health or even heavy smoking. If we’ve got you motivated, throw on some shoes and head outside this summer!

Written by Lorna Allen, CMHA BC

Take Time for Tea: Support Mental Health with CMHA and London Drugs

The Canadian Mental Health Association BC is thrilled that locally-based mental health services will be made stronger this Mental Health Week, through a new Take Time for Teacampaign being offered at all 80 London Drugs stores across Western Canada.

Take Time for Tea London Drugs CMHA Mental Health Week

“After sponsoring our suicide prevention work last fall, it is pretty amazing that London Drugs is with us again with this unique awareness and support campaign,” said Bev Gutray, the CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division. “Pick-up a tea card at London Drugs, learn about our top tips for mental health, and make a donation if you wish. All proceeds from this campaign will go toward mental health services assisting people in need, right in our local communities.”

Raise awareness and support mental health services

The “Take Time For Tea” campaign for local Canadian Mental Health Association branches runs this Mental Health Week May 7 to 13, at London Drugs stores from BC to Manitoba. Along with a stress-busting tea bag, the card contains tips for wellness and self-care from the Canadian Mental Health Association. The card reminds people, “Whether it’s tea, a good book, or a walk in the park, remember to enjoy a cup of mental health today—and share it with someone you care about.”

This campaign follows a suicide prevention awareness campaign for World Suicide Prevention Day September 2017 funded by London Drugs, and an in-store initiative where London Drugs pharmacists received critical suicide prevention training, and mental health and suicide prevention information was displayed at pharmacy counters. Donations received through “Take Time for Tea” will facilitate access to resources individuals and their families require to maintain and improve mental health, as well as support recovery from mental illness.

“London Drugs is proud to continue our partnership with CMHA across Western Canada with this important “Take Time for Tea” awareness campaign,” said Chris Chiew, general manager, pharmacy, London Drugs.  “Mental health affects everyone and pharmacists are in an important position to reduce stigma and get people talking about it.”

Chiew added, “Let’s get everyone talking about mental wellness and self-care. Our London Drugs pharmacists are here to listen and here to help; we are encouraging everyone to get behind the theme of Mental Health Week, and #GetLoud.”

In support of Mental Health Week, London Drugs and the CMHA also hosted a Facebook Live conversation about post-natal health and wellness on May 2. The video is available on the London Drugs Facebook page. For questions regarding post-natal health and wellness, London Drugs pharmacists are available to speak with patients.

CMHA BC Mental Health Week Get Loud London Drugs

Pharmacy Awareness Month: Pharmacists are Medication Experts and So Much More

Pharmacy Awareness Month London Drugs Hearth Health Clinics

As the most accessible health care providers in Canada, pharmacists collaborate with patients, their families and other health care providers to deliver a range of innovative services.

During Pharmacy Awareness Month this March, London Drugs pharmacists are reminding patients of the expanded role they play in health care and are encouraging Canadians to take advantage of the valuable health services offered conveniently at London Drugs pharmacies.

LD Pharmacist Leah Sarich on BT Calgary 

BT Calgary London Drugs Pharmacist Leah Sarich

London Drugs Pharmacist, Agusia McGrath, sat down with Breakfast Television Calgary’s Health Specialist, Leah Sarich, to talk about the range of wellness services pharmacists can provide. To watch, just click here.

Services offered at London Drugs pharmacies include:

Discover more about the services at your local London Drugs pharmacy by talking to a pharmacist in-store, or reading more information online.

How to Manage Stress at Work

Life can be stressful. We all know that, right? While money remains the biggest stressor for most Canadians, work comes in a close second. In fact, Statistics Canada figures state that 27% of Canadian workers claim to have high to extreme levels of stress on a daily basis and 46% admitted that they felt “a bit” of stress on a day-to-day basis.

Causes of this stress cover a range of issues including low salaries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for growth or advancement, conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations, and work that isn’t engaging or challenging.

The impact of stress on your health

Feeling stressed in today’s society is pretty much inevitable. Unfortunately work-related stress doesn’t just disappear when we leave the workplace at the end of the day and daily or prolonged stress can have a detrimental impact on our mental and physical health. Initially this can manifest as headaches, sleep disturbances, and difficulty concentrating, but if it becomes chronic it significantly increases our susceptibility to developing depression, heart disease, and/or substance use disorders.

However, the good news is that, believe it or not, you have some control over how stressed you get and how you cope with it. And that calls for a trifecta approach involving mind, body and soul!

The Trifecta Approach


  • Establish work-life boundaries. Disconnect from work in the evenings.  Don’t check your emails from home in the evenings or at weekends (unless you have to!).
  • Cultivate gratitude. Research has shown that reduces a multitude of toxic emotions such as stress, resentment, frustration and regret. Multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  • Learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness can help melt away stress.
  • Take your lunch breaks. Wolfing down your lunch quickly at your desk will only add to your stress. Go outside, relax somewhere peaceful and enjoy your food. The break will help you clear your head and help you focus when you return to your work.


  • Make healthy eating choices. You can’t fight stress with cake, wine or french fries. A few simple dietary changes may boost cognitive function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Keep fighting fit. Pick an activity you enjoy and practice it regularly. This will improve your body’s ability to use oxygen and improve blood flow and help lower your overall stress levels and improve your quality of life, both mentally and physically. Exercise also increases your brain’s production of endorphins – the “feel-good” neurotransmitters that are responsible for “runner’s high” and help you get a better night’s sleep!
  • Get your required rest. Sleep and mood are directly related. During sleep your brain repairs your body physically and mentally, so good-quality sleep is vital for effective stress management. Stick to a sleep schedule and try to incorporate a relaxing bedtime ritual.


  • Reconnect with your whole self. With all the things competing for our attention it is easy to lose sight of what make you YOU. Each of us is more than the work we do. When our life is full of nothing but work and obligations, we begin to feel bitter, resentful, depressed, and even angry. Take time to reflect and remember what your core values are spend time nurturing your relationship with yourself.
  • Spend time with those you love. Positive relationships with close friends and family can buffer stress and facilitate physical health. Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking.
  • Make time for hobbies and favourite activities. Think about what gets you excited and makes you have and dedicate regular time to enjoying that pastime – from reading a book to pottery to trainspotting! This is valuable YOU time. Few things relieve stress and energize you like an activity you love doing.

 Move forward on managing stress

Now you should be all set to make some positive changes and manage that stress.

However, if your workplace issues are more serious and can’t be managed alone, for example, in the case of harassment or bullying, then it’s a good idea to talk to your supervisor at your earliest convenience.  Happy employees are productive employees so it is in your employer’s interests to provide you with support.

Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program (EAP), including online information, available counselling, and referral to mental health professionals.

For some great resources on mental health at work, check out Great West Life’s Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

By Lorna Allen, CMHA BC

What’s Your Risk of Heart Disease? London Drugs Now Offering Critical Screening Tests

The statistics are staggering: heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada[1], and the leading cause of premature death among women[2]. Otherwise known as the ‘silent killer’, heart disease often has no symptoms, until the underlying disease has progressed. When signs are present, they are easily missed or dismissed.

Heart Health Clinics London Drugs

As one of the most accessible health care providers available to Canadians, our pharmacists are stepping up their efforts to help in the prevention of heart disease by providing critical screening tests conveniently in the pharmacy.

The benefits of screening tests

London Drugs Pharmacist Agusha McGrath recently visited Breakfast Television in Calgary to explain how the screening tests work, and how you can recognize the early signs of heart disease. Click here to watch.

Pharmacists like Agusha now play a key role in the prevention of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems: helping patients understand their risk factors, emphasizing the importance of medication adherence and offering counselling to make important lifestyle changes.

Sit down with a London Drugs Pharmacist

To help you take control of your own heart health and learn about heart disease prevention, our pharmacists are offering Healthy Heart Clinics, running now until April 26th at 68 London Drugs locations.

During the one-on-one 45 minute Healthy Heart clinics, patients will have the opportunity to sit down with a London Drugs Patient Care Pharmacist for a customized screening and evaluation. The pharmacist screens for total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, random glucose and blood pressure, and can determine a 10-year cardiovascular risk factor based on those measurements.

They also discuss with the patient how to lower their risk and improve heart health, which includes recommendations for changes to diet, fitness routines or lifestyle. As a collaborative health care provider, the pharmacist may also contact a physician, in order to recommend changes to the patient’s medications, or further medical intervention.

To book a Healthy Heart Clinic appointment visit: http://www.londondrugs.com/healthyheart

[1] Public Health Agency of Canada
[2] Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2018 Heart Report

Baby Feeding and Nutrition Facebook Live Event with Carley Mendes and Beaba

Introducing solid foods to your little one should be a fun and exciting adventure, but there are often many questions on how and when to take this step. By the time baby is ready for solid food, new parents have already researched so many other things…. strollers, car seats, sleep!

Earlier this month I partnered with London Drugs and Beaba to host a Facebook Live event and answer viewers questions about first foods for baby. I’m a holistic nutritionist and founder of Oh Baby Nutrition. I specialize in naturally nourishing pregnancy, postpartum, and starting solids with your baby. I love talking about feeding babies because you have such an amazing opportunity to help little ones establish healthy eating habits right from the beginning.

We covered quite a bit of important information in the Facebook event, such as…

When to start solids

During the event, I recommended to introduce first foods when baby is around 6 months, but also waiting until a few key developmental milestones have been met. Specifically that your baby can sit up unassisted, has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (does not automatically push solids out of their mouth with their tongue), and is ready and willing to chew.

Different methods of introducing solids

The two primary methods of introduction are spoon-feeding purees vs baby-led weaning. With baby-led weaning, you skip the purees and start with finger foods right away.  These two methods do not have to be done exclusively and you can try a mix of both feeding styles with your little one. I’ve created a comprehensive guide to starting solids called Baby Knows Best that helps parents make an educated decision about the method that feels right for them and their babies. The Beaba Babycook that was featured in our Facebook event cooks both purees and finger foods.

Finger foods: shape, size & texture

Whether starting with finger foods or introducing them after purees, it’s critical to understand the proper shape, size & texture for safety.  Stick or finger shaped foods allows your baby to firmly hold the food in the palm of their hand and bite off little pieces, with or without teeth. It helps them learn how to chew, and learn how much food they can safely manage in their mouths. I’ve written more extensively about this here.

Best flavors to offer baby: sweet vs savoury

Parents are often concerned that offering sweet before savoury will cause babies to develop a sweet tooth. However, humans are naturally drawn to sweet flavours because in nature they represent energy dense, safe foods that are less likely to carry foodborne illness. Plus, breast milk (formula) is very sweet so they already have a taste for it. Initial introduction isn’t as important as making sure to include a variety of flavours in baby’s diet once they’ve started solids. Offering variety in a baby’s diet is also the best ways to avoid picky eating habits in toddlers.

How much food to feed baby

Each baby is different and the age at which they’ll be ready for more food will vary.  So it’s recommended to watch your baby’s cues and follow their lead. Its best not to rush into things and only offer 1 serving a day for the first month or so, then build slowly from there.


We also had some fantastic questions from viewers of our Facebook Live event, such as…


When you start to introduce solids does it take the place of a nursing feed?

When solid food is initially introduced, servings will be tiny and baby’s intake of breast milk should remain the same. As food intake slowly increases over time, breast milk consumption will naturally decrease and mother’s supply will adapt to the lessened demand. This exchange of breast milk for food should happen very gradually.


What would you recommend as a good first food to start your baby on?

I prefer fresh foods over packaged foods, and nutrient-dense foods over fortified foods. Some important nutrients for babies are iron, calcium, and DHA. In my guide to starting solids, I list all of my favorite foods, along with recipes and meal plans for various ages.


Is it ok to start babies on a full variety of mixed food from the very start or should you start with individual foods and then combine once we are sure they are ok to eat?

It was previously recommended to introduce new foods one at a time, waiting a few days between. However this advice has changed and now only applies to highly allergenic foods, such as cow’s milk, hen’s eggs, soy, wheat, nuts, sesame, shellfish and fish.


I have a very, very big baby so is it better to add water as opposed to breast milk to my baby food?

Breast milk is the most nutrient-dense sustenance for babies, so it’s not recommended to limit intake. However feel free to mix up the liquid you use to make purees, such as the water used to steam baby food, bone broth, coconut water, or even non-medicinal herbal tea.

My baby is 8 months (I started solids at 6 months) and he still does not seem very interested in food. Is this uncommon?

Some babies take to solids right away, but it can definitely take others some time to show an interest.  Let your baby lead the way and set the pace. It’s best not to try enticing them to consume more than they’re inclined too, so they can preserve their innate ability to self-regulate their appetite. However, I suggest talking with your health care provider if your baby isn’t taking to solids and is also exhibiting other developmental delays.

Is your little one ready to begin the adventure of first foods? My guide, Baby Knows Best includes a 4-part video series and 4 part-eBook series that will show you exactly how and when to take this exciting step. Baby Knows Best will answer all of your questions, eliminate your doubts, and allow you to start solids with confidence.


Carley Mendes, Holistic Nutritionist

Oh Baby Nutrition (www.ohbabynutrition.com)
Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ohbabynutrition/)
Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ohbabynutrition/?hl=en)

Beaba Facebook Live Event and Giveaway!

Cooking for baby?

See the Beaba Babycook in action and learn from a Holistic Nutritionist specializing in nutrition for baby and mom during pregnancy and postpartum

Learn how to use the Beaba Babycook Original to

  • prepare fresh, tasty and healthy meals for babies & toddlers in 15 minutes
  • make cooked & pureed from raw, including fruits, vegetables, meat or fish
  • make any stage baby or toddler food from purees to solids, and
  • preserve vitamins & nutrients

Join the conversation by subscribing to live notifications and tuning in on Thursday February 15th at 10am and have your questions answered via Facebook Live.

Plus, enter for a chance to win your own Beaba Babycook! See below for full Terms & Conditions and how to enter.

Please comment in the Facebook Event with your mom & baby feeding and nutrition questions and we will do our best to answer all questions during the event. We will only be referencing posts made on the event page or the Facebook Live Stream itself, so make sure you post your questions there and not in the comments section of a post or on our Facebook wall.

Please note that we are not able to diagnose or provide specific clinical answers through a Facebook Live event, but do not hesitate to ask these questions of your doctor.

Beaba Babycook Contest Terms & Conditions

To enter: Log on to Facebook.com and either sign in if you are already a registered user or create an account. Then comment during the Facebook Live on the London Drugs Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LondonDrugs in the form of posting a question or comment on the live event. You will be automatically entered into the Contest. Only one entry per Facebook account is permitted during the Contest Period.

Contest is open to all residents of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba who, as of the date the prize draw is made: (i) have not won a London Drugs contest since February 15th 2017; (ii) have reached the age of majority in the province in which they reside as of February 15th 2018; (iii) are not employees of London Drugs, their respective advertising and promotional agencies, the independent judging organization (if any), or any family member living with any such employee.

No purchase necessary. Limit one (1) entry per person. Entries must be received no later than 10:30 AM Pacific Time on February 15th 2018. London Drugs is not responsible for entries that become lost or misdirected.
One (1) winner will be randomly chosen on the day the contest ends (see dates below) in Vancouver, British Columbia, from all eligible entries received. To win, selected entrants must correctly answer a skill-testing mathematical question and must sign London Drugs’ declaration and release confirming compliance with the contest rules and acceptance of the prize(s) as awarded, releasing London Drugs from liability in association with the contest and prize and consenting to the use of their name, photograph, voice and statements for promotional and publicity purposes.
There will be one (1) prize of one Beaba Babycook Original 4-in-1 Baby Food Maker (Retail value of $149.99). See details and contest date below. Prize must be accepted as awarded, is non-transferable and no substitutions are permitted. Prize will be awarded at the closest London Drugs location to contest winners.

Contest date – Thursday February 15th 2018 from 10AM PST – 10:30 AM PST

Draw date – Friday February 15th 2018

Only one prize may be won by any one person and household. In the event that any selected entrant incorrectly answers the skill-testing question or is otherwise unwilling or unable to comply in full with these rules, a new entry will be drawn.
Selected winner will be contacted through Facebook messenger. No correspondence will be entered into except with selected entrants. If the winners do not respond then they will be notified for the second time, 3 (three) days after the first notification. If the winners still do not respond within 3 days of the second notification, a new winner will be chosen in the same manner until a winner is successfully contacted.
The chances of winning a prize will depend on the number of eligible entries received. Decisions of the judges in respect of all aspects of this contest including, but not limited to, eligibility of entries and correctness of answers given to the skill-testing question, are final.
London Drugs and their respective advertising and promotional agencies, the independent judging organization, and their respective agents are not liable to an entrant in any manner relating to the contest or the awarding and use of the prize(s).
This contest is subject to all federal, provincial, and municipal laws and regulations. By entering the entrant consents to the collection of all personal information included on their entry and agrees to the use and disclosure of such information by and between London Drugs, an independent judging organization, and their agents. The winner(s) also agrees to the collection, use, and disclosure of their name, entry, photographs, voice, and statements for London Drugs’ publicity purposes without further compensation. All personal information collected from entrants will be used only for the purposes of administering the contest and for marketing and promotional purposes as contemplated by these rules; under no circumstances will any personal information be sold or rented to third parties. All personal information collected by London Drugs will be kept in accordance with the privacy policy of London Drugs, which can be viewed at www.londondrugs.com, and in accordance with all applicable privacy laws.
The right is reserved by London Drugs to terminate this contest, in whole or in part, and/or modify, amend or suspend the contest, and/or these rules in any way, should any cause beyond the reasonable control of London Drugs or its agents affect the proper administration thereof.

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