It’s common knowledge that exercise is beneficial for the body.
But its benefits are not just physical: they’re also psychological.
In fact, exercise is now prescribed by many experts in the mental health field as a way to treat particular mental disorders.
It can improve mood, enhance sleep, and help with the challenges posed by stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
You may wish to augment the benefits you’re getting from exercise by seeking support from a professional health care provider. A therapist can offer a sympathetic ear and will engage you in “talk therapy”, which will help you better understand your symptoms and allow you to develop effective coping strategies. Ask your physician, family, or friends for suggestions.
Click here to learn more about getting support from a mental health care professional.
How does exercise improve mental health?
Yes, exercise offers benefits to physical health and strength, improves appearance, and adds to longevity.
It can have a strong influence on anxiety and depression It creates a feeling of enhanced well-being and energy. It improves sleep, sharpens mental acuity, and overall produces a more positive outlook.
How does exercise fight depression?
Studies have shown that exercise is as effective in cases of mild or even moderate depression as medication. The benefit, naturally, is that there are no side-effects.
When you exercise, your brain experiences a variety of changes. These include reduction of inflammation and increased neural growth.
It also prompts the release of endorphins, the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals that lift your spirits.
How does exercise fight anxiety?
Exercise is a highly effective, natural form of therapy to combat anxiety. It helps alleviate stress, enhances mental and physical energy, and boosts your sense of well-being when it causes the release of endorphins.
Exercise is most effective when it’s done mindfully. Don’t just go through the motions.
Be aware of physical sensations – for example, when you’re running, be aware of the feeling when your foot hits the ground, or the sound of your own breathing. When you focus on how your body is feeling when you exercise, you’ll enhance your physical fitness as well as block the worries that have been mentally bombarding you.
How does exercise fight stress?
You know the symptoms of stress: tense muscles (particularly in shoulders, neck, and face). You may experience headaches, neck and back pain, chest tightness, pulse-pounding, cramped muscles. In addition, you may have other symptoms like digestive problems, heartburn, and insomnia. These physical discomforts in turn may cause even more stress – and before you know it your body and mind are caught up in a vicious circle.
Exercise can help break the cycle. In addition to the release of endorphins, exercise relaxes your muscles and helps relieve body tension.
The body and mind are closely intertwined. When the body feels healthy and sound, so does your mind.
Other Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
You don’t have to be experiencing serious mental health challenges to benefit from consistent physical activity. Making a point of getting regular exercise can give you a boost in a multitude of ways
It can sharpen your thinking processes and your memory. Those “feel-good” endorphin chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being can also boost your concentration and help sharpen you mentally. It also ignites new brain cell growth and can slow the aging process.
When you exercise regularly, it makes you feel better about yourself – able and strong. It makes you feel more confident about yourself, and you’ll feel proud of what you’ve achieved.
Exercise can improve the quality of your sleep, and get you on a more regular sleep schedule. When you increase your heartbeat a number of times each week, it’ll boost your energy levels. You don’t have to exert yourself for hours: if you begin with just a few minutes each day, you’ll start to feel the benefits.
Exercise will make you feel more capable of dealing with issues that are mentally or emotionally challenging – without having to resort to self-medication like drugs or alcohol, which only worsen your symptoms. It also boosts your immune system, which makes you better able to fight illness.
How much is enough?
You don’t have to become a gym rat or a marathoner to enjoy the way exercise can benefit you physically and emotionally. Just walking for 30 minutes five times weekly is a good standard amount. And if you can’t do 30 minutes at a time, simply break it down to two or three shorter segments throughout the day.
If you can’t manage 30 minutes, start with just 5. Even a small amount of activity is beneficial. Build on that, and you’ll be able to do more.
It can include just about any activity, from gardening to doing a home DIY project. Just get moving!
Numerous studies have shown that exercise benefits mental health and well-being.
It alleviates symptoms of anxiety and depression and creates a feeling of enhanced well-being and energy. It improves sleep, sharpens mental acuity, and overall produces a more positive outlook on life.
You don’t need to spend hours on it. Start with just 10 or 15 minutes daily of an activity you enjoy, and you’ll start to enjoy the benefits of exercise.