7 Ways Exercise Can Help Emotional and Mental Health
Sadly, rates of depression and anxiety are at their highest recorded levels in the USA as well as in many other countries.
The reason for this is not certain, but many aspects of “modern life” such as increasing social isolation, poor diets, too much time and focus on social media, image and money, are likely to contribute to this state.
However, inactivity may also be another key factor to poor mental health.
We all know that regular exercise is good for the body and the physical health. Exercise helps us to stay fit and trims the waistline.
But you may not know that exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mood and mental health.
Regular exercise can even have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more.
Exercise can relieve stress, improve memory, help you sleep better, and boost your overall mood.
Exercises like aerobic, jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression.
And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits – research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference.
So what’s the medical explanation to the positive impact exercise has on our mood and mental health?
Well, exercise stimulates the body to produce endorphins and enkephalins. These two are the body’s natural feel-good hormones, which can make us feel better and make problems seem more manageable.
Here’s an explanation from Sarah Gingell, Ph.D., is a psychologist and counsellor based in Edinburgh, U.K.:
“Exercise directly affects the brain. Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions — in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/why-exercise-is-so-essential-mental-health
Here Are 7 Ways Exercise Can Help Improve Your Emotional and Mental Health:
1. Exercise Lessens Anxiety and Depression
Research in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine suggests that physical activity is effective in relieving anxiety symptoms in mild cases.
Studies show that exercise can also treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication – without the side-effects. Exercise distracts you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences.
At the same time, it offers an opportunity to socialise and get social support if you exercise with others.
Whether it’s hitting the free weights or taking a Tabitha class – releasing tension in your muscles can trail back all the way to your head.
2. Exercise Improves Memory
If you have trouble remembering names or appointments, then it’s time to lace up the sneakers!
There is research finding that people performed significantly better in a memory task after strenuous exercise than those who rested.
Staying active is also a huge help for age-related mind decay. Research indicates that exercise helps preserve cognitive function as you get older.
So while picking up the crossword or a new language definitely helps in memory decline, you may also want to pick up a pair of dumbbells!
3. Exercise Curbs Cravings and Addiction
You probably know that “ a runner’s high” is caused by the release of dopamine into the body. And this is a good thing, especially when we have other not-so-healthy vices that tap into the pleasure chemical, such as alcohol, drugs, candy or food.
According to research in addiction, habitual cigarette smokers find that short amounts of physical activity momentarily broke their cravings.
So if you’re trying to break a bad habit, get out and move a little until the moment has passed.
4. Exercise Pumps Up Productivity
According a report from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, cubicle workers who were regularly exercising, felt more productive and energized during their workdays compared to their chair-bound colleagues.
Next time your boss gives you grief about your midday Yoga class, just let him or her know it’s all part of the plan to help you meet deadlines.
5. Exercise Increases Self-Esteem
A report in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that engaging in physical activities, particularly during early teen years of adolescence, has a positive correlation with reported self-esteem years down the line.
Moreover, the simple act of focusing on exercise can give yous a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk.
Start early and reap the rewards for years to come!
6. Exercise Cranks Up Creativity
Thinking outside the box in the workplace may be as easy as going outside your cubicle. A recent Dutch study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience suggests that people who exercise regularly are also better at creative thinking.
So if you’ve been stuck on a task for a while, take a stroll during your lunch break. It may be just the right thing for you to get you past the block.
7. Exercise Helps To Cope With Stress
Have you noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may become tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders. This can cause back or neck pain and painful headaches.
You may also feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn and stomachache.
Exercising is an effective way to help you relax and cope with stress. Partly because of the “feel-good” endorphins the brain releases when exercising and partly because the physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body.
And when your body feels better so will your mind.
Outdoor exercising – an added psycho-social boost!
According to research, working out in outdoor environments lifts self esteem more than indoor training. So when possible – do some of your exercise outdoors and take a walk to the gym!
Some great outdoor activities you can do also with family and friends are gardening, hiking, fishing, swimming, surfing, tennis and golfing.
So now when you know how important it is to exercise – not only for your body but also for your mood, mental strength, health and well-being…
…make a decision today what exercise you’ll do regularly!
Pick 1-2 exercises you enjoy. It can be as easy as taking a 30 minute walk 4-7 days a week – but do it regularly!
And encourage your spouse and children to do the same – and even if you all end up doing different kind of exercises – try to spend some hours together outdoors during the weekends.
Spending some time outdoors together will make you and your family feel more connected, more energized, and most likely increase your overall health and sense of well-being!
Please share this post with your friends and family – and I’d love to read in the comments below what your favorite exercise is that makes you feel less stressed, more energetic and happy!!
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