If you have been reading my other blogs you will be aware of my unhealthy relationship with exercise. When I say unhealthy, I don’t mean its an unhealthy endeavour. I mean I’m either avoiding it or obsessing over it. But lets all be very clear, when I do exercise it makes me feel fantastic. Eventually.
So, as i was saying we all know that exercise is good for your body but did you know that it can also boost your mood, let you sleep better at night, and help you fight symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress? A lack of physical activity can contribute to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or poor mood. Im definitely guilting of falling into those traps. However , exercising on a regular basis will not only improve your self-esteem, it also improves cognitive function and diminishes symptoms of social withdrawal.
How Does it Work?
Exercise releases powerful chemical endorphins in the brain that lifts your spirits and makes you feel good both inside and out. Regular and consistent exercise promotes many different changes in the brain from neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote a sense of inner calm and well-being. Focusing on exercise can also serve as a healthy distraction, allowing you to break out of a cycle of negative thinking.
What are the Mental Health Benefits of Exercise?
You don’t have to be a health nut or even a fitness fanatic to reap the mental health benefits of regular exercise. Of course, having a trim waistline or bulging biceps is an additional perk but it’s not what motivates most people to maintain an active lifestyle. People who get up and motivate themselves to exercise regularly typically report a high sense of personal well-being. No matter your age or fitness level, you can use exercise as a tool to improve your mental health as well as your energy and outlook on life.
- Depression – regular exercise has been proven to be just as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression. Walking for just one hour per day not only relieves symptoms of depression, it also prevents relapse.
- Anxiety – exercise helps relieve tension and stress by releasing endorphins that help boost both physical and mental energy. Mindfulness practices such as yoga or meditation are especially helpful in interrupting unhealthy thought patterns and grounding yourself in the present.
- Stress – physical activity helps relieve stress and tension by alternately contracting and relaxing the muscles in the body. When you’re feeling stressed your muscles may be tense in the face, neck or shoulders which can lead to headaches or neck and back pain.
You don’t need to have a diagnosed mental health problem to benefit from regular physical activity. Exercise can provide anyone with sharper memory, better concentration, higher self-esteem, more energy, and increased resilience. You also don’t need to devote hours every day to the gym to reap the mental health benefits of exercise. It’s as simple as 30 minutes just five times a week. As long as you make exercise a fun part of your everyday life, you can be successful in reaping the many mental health benefits of exercise.
By Keith Russell