Most of us know or have heard about how exercise can help your mental health. From easing symptoms of depression and anxiety to keeping your memory sharp there’s no shortage of mental health benefits from exercise. Here are the top five benefits from working out:
- For depression and anxiety: Exercise has been scientifically proven to boost your mood, decreasing symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Physical activity kicks up endorphin levels. Endorphin is the chemical produced by the brain and spinal cord that produces feelings of happiness and euphoria.
- Decreased stress: Another mental health benefit of exercise is reduced stress levels. Increasing your heart rate can actually reverse stress-induced brain damage by stimulating the production of neurohormones like norepinephrine, which not only improve cognition and mood but improve thinking clouded by stressful events. Exercise can also force the body’s central and sympathetic nervous systems to communicate with one another, improving the body’s overall ability to respond to stress.
- Better sleep: If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, exercise can help with that as well. Physical activity increases your body temperature, which can have calming effects on the mind. Exercise can also help regulate your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s built in alarm clock that helps control when we feel tired and when we feel alert.
- Brain boost: From building intelligence to strengthening memory, exercise boosts brainpower in a number of ways. There was a study on mice and humans that indicate that cardiovascular exercise creates new brain cells. That can help improve overall brain performance. It also prevents cognitive decline and memory loss by strengthening the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Studies have also shown that physical activity boosts creativity and mental energy.
- Increased self-esteem and self-confidence: From working out more you can improve your endurance, lose weight, and increase muscle tone. There are no shortage pf physical achievements that come about from regular exercise. Improving on some of those things can lead to boost in your self-esteem and confidence. It’s just one of the many benefits of physical activity that boost your body, mind, and spirit.
Don’t let this seem intimidating. Start with five to ten-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more. Thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as a brisk walking for 3 days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits. However, these 30 minutes do not need to be continuous. Three ten minutes walks are believed to be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities.
Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. When we feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have other mental or emotional problems, it can seem doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, which can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of your energy and motivation you need to work out. So, what can you do? You can start small as we mentioned before. Do not set extravagant goals, that you will fall short of. Set achievable goals and build up from there. You can also schedule your workout at the time of day when your energy is highest. Take advantage of the times when you have energy and do something good for your body and mind. If you feel tired and unmotivated all day long, try going for a walk or cranking your music up and dancing it out.
You do not have to spend hours in a gym or force into long monotonous workouts to experience the many benefits of exercise. Hopefully you can use these tips and start to feel better and get more out of life. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, we are always here to help you through the challenges you are facing.
Walden University. “5 Mental Benefits of Exercise.” Walden University, Walden University, 1 Apr. 2020, www.waldenu.edu/online-bachelors-programs/bs-in-psychology/resource/five-mental-benefits-of-exercise.
Weir, Kristen. “The Exercise Effect .” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Dec. 2011, www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.