The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Written by on March 10, 2019 in Exercise and Fitness, Health with 0 Comments

Most people understand the physical health benefits of exercise, yet the mental health benefits are often-overlooked. The idea of using exercise to treat mental health problems isn’t as far fetched as it once was, with research showing just how beneficial regular physical activity is for the mind as well as the body.

In fact, exercise is possibly one of the most powerful tools for improving mental health. Various types of mental health illnesses can be treated with exercise, while we also get the countless physical benefits into the bargain.

Image source: pexels.com

Given how much the mind and body benefits from exercise, it’s safe to say everyone should make the effort to increase their physical activity. You don’t even need to become a fitness freak – even moderately exercising several days a week offers many benefits to mental health. To help keep your workouts interesting, we have attached an infographic “55 exercises you should try” from uk gym equipment  which contains exercises for both the home and gym.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the mental health benefits of regular exercise:

Depression

One of the most significant and widespread mental health conditions, depression results in countless symptoms that make life almost impossible to live. Overcoming depression is very challenging, even when using medication, yet exercise is proven to be a highly effective treatment for symptoms of depression.


For example, after exercising the brain produces feel good hormones called endorphins. This results in a notable feeling of euphoria and general happiness, helping to alleviate some of the crippling symptoms of depression.

In fact, in many cases exercise is the most effective form of antidepressant, reducing most of the negative symptoms without any side-effects associated with medication.

Anxiety

Similar to depression, anxiety is a common mental health condition that is very difficult to live with. There are various forms of anxiety, but it’s typically categorised by feelings of fear and unease, often resulting in panic and anxiety attacks that feel incredibly debilitating.

Exercise is a known treatment for anxiety helping to reduce the stress and tension that often causes anxiety to develop, while also releasing endorphins that improve our mood and mindsets.

The therapeutic process of exercise also helps with anxiety. Rather than being stuck in your head and dealing with intense (and usually unwarranted) negative feelings, you focus primarily on the exercise at hand, forgetting about all the stress and anxiety.

Yoga can be especially useful for this due the mindfulness it promotes, although any physical activity can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Stress

We all get stressed, it’s a part of life after all, yet sometimes when there is no relief from this emotion life becomes a struggle. Living with high stress can lead to all kinds of physical health problems in the future, not to mention causing aches and pains through physical tension.

If you ever feel tense in your neck, shoulders or back, stress is likely a contributing factor. Exercising can help reduce tension and alleviate stress like few things, making it an incredibly invaluable tool for our long-term mental wellbeing.

Both the mind and body feel more relaxed after a workout, with endorphins helping to melt away the stress and make tense muscles feel much better.

Improved Mood

You don’t need to have a mental health condition like anxiety or depression to benefit from the mood-boosting properties of exercise -anyone that works out can expect their mood to immediately improve.

As mentioned, this due to a release of feel good chemicals in the brain that helps increase your mood, but people also feel content, alert, and calm after exercising, all of which combine to greatly improve your mood.

There is nothing more beneficial to our mental health than feeling good and positive in life, which is exactly what regular exercise offers.

ADHD

Living with ADHD is very difficult, making normal things like focusing and memory much more challenging to handle. Understandably, people with ADHD often struggle with school, college, and even work, as the symptoms usually take control without them even realising.

Exercise is one effective treatment for symptoms of ADHD. This is due to the reaction physical activity has on the brain, causing an increase in dopamine and serotonin, both of which improve focus, attention, and memory.

This means that exercise is a suitable treatment for a major mental health condition in ADHD without any negative side effects associated with medical treatments.

Self-Esteem

The physical benefits of exercise are obvious, improving weigh management and building and toning muscle, but these have a knock-on effect on our mental health too. For instance, when you get in shape you feel more confident in your body, especially if losing weight or adding muscle.

Many people struggle with self-esteem and self-confidence issues because of their body. These in turn have a negative effect towards mental wellbeing, so by exercising you can reduce this negative impact and feel much better about yourself.

Something as simple as slimming down and fitting into nicer clothes can work wonders for your self-confidence, which carries on into your relationships, work, and most other aspects of your life.

Sleep

It’s hard to maintain good mental health without proper sleep. The brain uses sleep to recover in many ways, so a lack of good sleep usually results in lower brain performance, which can produce various unwanted side-effects like fatigue, stress, poor memory function.

Image source: pexels.com

Exercise makes it easier to fall asleep while also resulting in a much more restful sleep. You’ll wake up feeling more energised, refreshed, and in a great mood after a good night’s sleep, all of which help promote positive mental health.

It’s Fun and Sociable

Exercise is great fun, so the more enjoyment you gain from it the better you tend to feel. When we enjoy doing an activity like exercise, our mental wellbeing naturally increases, so if there is specific form of exercise you really enjoy then it could make you feel much happier and content.

The social aspect is also a lot of fun, as nothing quite beats working out with a friend, whether hitting the gym or playing a game of squash. Being around other people has positive effects on our mindset, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

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