We all know that the mind and body are connected, so it only makes sense that exercise for mental health go hand in hand. If we work on making one better, the other can see some improvement as well.
This does not mean that they’re interchangeable or that these effects are achieved easily, however, most people would agree that working out or being physically active in general has a positive connection to their mental state so exercise and mental health are supportive of one another.
Here we try to explain this process on a simple and digestible level.
Exercise for Mental Health Conditions
Studies show that exercise and mental health work by helping both in easing the symptoms of depression and reducing the risk of being diagnosed with it in the first place. This is achieved by the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
Working out releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, making you feel happier both in the moment and, if you are consistent with your schedule, long term.
For some people working out is as good as taking medications. As exercise and mental health have no scary side effects and costly visits to the pharmacy.
It can also help in finding a new hobby or a different environment, both of which can greatly change one’s perspective on life.
Exercise for mental health reduces the symptoms of anxiety in a few different ways, the main one being it gives you something else to focus on (like breathing techniques, the way your body moves etc.) Exercise and mental health can help you to feel less stressed, less worried, and less anxious if done consistently.
It also controls the amygdala (a part of the brain responsible for reacting to real or imaginary threats) and gets your heart rate up, releasing neurochemicals that help in feeling more relaxed overall.
Exercise for mental health helps both with fighting anxiety as a whole and with specific “in the moment” episodes.
Exercise and mental health helps people with ADHD too – this time the main benefit is the release of dopamine: this is the chemical mainly responsible for attention and concentration, crucial sides of ADHD.
By exercising you both supply your brain with this neurotransmitter and many more chemicals beneficial to feeling more relaxed, thus more focused.
Long term effects of exercise for mental health include bettering the executive function of the brain where all the planning, organizing and learning happen due to different proteins.
This is probably the most well known connection between the mind and body – exercising helps with stress every time.
Weather because it takes your mind off the problem for a bit, making you more clear-headed and focused after, because it eases physical tension in your muscles or because it improves your blood flow, heart rate and releases endorphins, working out always leads to some sort of stress relief.
As an added bonus working out makes the communication inside your body better, regulating the fight-or-flight response we have when under pressure and reminding the body itself how to recover more efficiently, thus receiving a much needed rest. Exercise helps support mental health which is why exercise for mental health is so beneficial.
- Increased Cognitive Function
The same chemicals responsible for feeling better also work in order to be sharper, more focused and learn more easily.
Exercise for mental health stimulates the growth of brain cells, strengthens the hippocampus, and fights the aging process both inside the brain and out.
It helps us learn easier and remember better, all the while keeping us more focused.
- More Self-Confidence
When you are investing time and effort in yourself, you inevitably see results and when you see results, it only stands to reason that your personal view of yourself changes.
Having a sense of achievement as well as learning new abilities or developing ones you already have is a boost to your self-esteem and with good reason.
Working out is also a time just for you, something which we all need, but can be hard to achieve with a busy way of life. As you make more gains with your health, this builds a greater sense of accomplishment and self confidence.
As a bonus a lot of people have problems with being consistent and when they make it a habit to work out this is proof that they can stick with the important things, thus giving them more confidence in different aspects of daily life too.
- Better Sleep
Exercise for mental health also tires out the body and thus makes rest an essential part in one’s day. Sleeping helps support the mental health of the person and allows for them to handle the day’s stressors. Getting quality rest is essential to help support one’s mental health.
Regulating sleep patterns and the quality of sleep itself, exercising has been a massive help to people that have issues in this area.
Your body’s natural need for rest is amplified after working out and your mind starts to fight irregularities without the need of medication.
- Increase In Happiness
When working out our body releases almost all the chemicals responsible for happiness which helps aid in exercise and mental health.
Both short and long term happiness is connected to taking care of your body and exercise for mental health is one of the most natural ways to do just that.
Runner’s high followed by better focus in the short term can make your day better while building self-esteem and reaping the more complex and subtle benefits that come with exercising making your life happier in general.
It only stands to reason that with all of these positive qualities, working out is essential to an individual’s happiness.
Regardless of if you’re fighting a specific illness or just want to feel better overall, exercise is never a bad option. Exercise and mental health truly go hand and hand as those who exercise often have a better happier mood.
On a strictly physical level, it betters your body in almost every aspect and is connected to a healthier, happier, and longer life.
On a psychological level working out can help fight different conditions, boost self-esteem and give essential chemicals for one’s happiness.
Whatever the reason is (be it to find a new hobby, a desire to look better, fight a condition or something entirely different) exercise for mental health is sure to have a positive effect both on your physical and mental health.
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