The Link Between Physical Activity and Mental Health

The Link Between Physical Activity and Mental Health
We all know how important exercise is for keeping us physically healthy. But did you know that exercise can also help keep you mentally healthy?
Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing, and lower rates of mental illness.
Taking up exercise seems to reduce the risk of developing mental illness. It also seems to help in treating some mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety. For example, for mild-moderate depression, research suggests physical activity can be as effective as antidepressants or psychological treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy. Exercise can also a valuable addition to other treatment options.

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Why does exercise make us feel better, mentally?

Often, people who exercise regularly do it simply because it makes them feel good. Exercise can boost your mood, concentration and alertness. It can even help give you a positive outlook on life.
The link between exercise and mental health is complicated. Inactivity can be both a cause and a consequence of mental illness, for example. But there are lots of ways that exercise can benefit your mental health, such as:
  • The levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins, change when you exercise.
  • Regular exercise can help you sleep better. And good sleep helps you manage your mood.
  • Exercise can improve your sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem. People who exercise regularly often report how good achieving a goal makes them feel.
  • Exercise can distract you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences.
  • It offers an opportunity to socialise and get social support if you exercise with others.
  • Exercise increases your energy levels.
  • Physical activity can be an outlet for your frustrations.
  • Exercise can reduce skeletal muscle tension, which helps you feel more relaxed.
The physical benefits of exercise are also important for people with mental illness. It improves your cardiovascular health and overall physical health. This is important because people with mental health issues are at a higher risk of suffering from chronic physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and asthma.

How to get started with exercise

It can be intimidating to start exercising if you haven’t done it in a while, but a plan can help you start and stick with it.
Your new exercise plan has a better chance of success if you:
  • choose an activity you like, or have enjoyed in the past, that suits your fitness levels and abilities
  • start small – build up your activity gradually. Ideally, vary your activities so you don’t get bored
  • write your plan in your diary or on your calendar, so it’s part of your schedule
  • regularly revisit your exercise plans, and try something different if it’s not working out for you.
Exercise benefits for mental health

Exercise benefits for mental health

When we think of working out, we often picture toned muscles and cardiovascular health, but the benefits go way deeper, right into our mental and emotional well-being. Here’s how breaking a sweat can also boost your mental game:
  1. Kickstarts Your Happy Vibes: Exercise is like a natural happy pill. It gets those endorphins (the body’s feel-good chemicals) flowing. This isn’t just some gym myth – it’s legit. Regular workouts can help shake off the blues and ease anxiety.
  2. Melts Away Stress: Ever notice how a good run or yoga session chills you out? That’s because working out boosts norepinephrine, which helps your brain handle stress like a boss. So, when life’s going a bit crazy, a workout can be your cool-down.
  3. Boosts Your Confidence: Getting into a workout groove does wonders for how you see yourself. Crushing those fitness goals can make you feel like a Rockstar and seriously amp up your self-esteem.
  4. Sharpens Your Brain: Exercise isn’t just about getting buff; it’s brain food, too. Cardio gets your heart pumping more oxygen to your noggin, and that’s great for brain function. It’s like a workout for your brain cells!
  5. Helps You Sleep Better: Tossing and turning at night? Exercise can help you slip into dreamland more easily. Just a heads up, though – try not to work out too close to bedtime, or you might be too revved up to sleep.
  6. Boosts Memory and Learning: Regular exercise doesn’t just make you fitter; it also makes you sharper. It ramps up the production of cells in your brain’s memory department.
  7. Brings People Together: Exercise can be a fun way to hang out with others. Joining a class, a sports team, or just walking with friends can help you feel more connected, keeping those lonely vibes at bay.

Exercise outdoors

For even greater benefits, try exercising outdoors.
Some recent studies have found people report a higher level of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem, and a lower level of tension, depression and fatigue, after they have walked outside. People who exercise outside also say they are more likely to exercise again than those who stay indoors.
And, people who exercise outside do it more often, and for longer, than those who work out indoors.

5 Exercises for mental health improvement

Five Feel-Good Workouts for a Happier Mind Ready to give your mental health a boost with some fun exercises? Here are five activities that are not only great for your body but also awesome for clearing the cobwebs in your head:
  1. Yoga: More than just stretching, yoga is like a chill pill for your brain. It mixes up poses, deep breaths, and a bit of meditation, which is great for knocking down stress and anxiety levels. Plus, focusing on your breath can bring you a sweet slice of peace and mindfulness.
  2. Take a Walk: Never underestimate the power of a good walk! Whether it’s a zippy stroll in the park or a relaxed walk around your neighborhood, walking is super simple and super effective. It clears your mind, slashes stress, and gives your mood a little high-five. And it’s easy to squeeze into your day.
  3. Swimming: Glide into the pool and leave your worries on the dry land. Swimming is gentle on your body but a big hug for your mental state. The rhythmic strokes are kind of like meditation, and the water itself has a naturally calming effect. Plus, it’s a neat way to stay fit, which always gives your mood a boost.
  4. Pump Some Iron: Hit the weights or grab those resistance bands. This isn’t just about bulking up; it’s about building inner strength too. Strength training is ace for ramping up your self-confidence and cutting down on anxiety. Plus, focusing on your reps is a fab way to take a mini-vacay from daily stress.
  5. Dance It Out: Crank up your favorite tunes and dance like nobody’s watching. Dancing is an epic endorphin-releaser. It’s exercise, it’s expression, and it’s usually a whole lot of fun. Whether you’re in a class or just boogieing in your bedroom, dancing is a stellar way to light up your mood.

The secret sauce? Stick with it. Choose the stuff you actually enjoy doing, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s all about what makes you feel good and fits into your life.