The physical benefits of exercising regularly are already familiar to everyone, which is not the case with mental benefits. Many people are not aware of the many positive effects exercise has on our brain and mental health. Studies show that exercising is a powerful tool in curing mild to moderate depression and it is as efficient as taking medication. Indulging in some kind of physical activity promotes the release of the feel-good hormone, helps you sleep better, decompress from the stress of daily life, it enables you to be socially active and gives you a sense of accomplishment by achieving certain fitness goals. Crucial steps to mental wellbeing start with recognizing the importance of physical activity both for physical and mental health.
Some key statistics behind the correlation of regular exercise and mental health explain how exercise builds up our mental health. Numerous studies worldwide have been conducted to research the correlation between working out and mental health benefits. These studies have shown that exercising has an important role in battling depression, anxiety and a general feeling of distress in adults when exercise is done a few times a week. Findings from some other studies suggest that people who do exercises regularly have fewer bad days a month than people who are not physically active. The research also shows that people who exercise moderately to vigorously for more than 150 minutes a week have 22% less chance of becoming depressed. And this is important, as depression and anxiety are some of the biggest problems people worldwide are faced with today. This visual infographic also helps outline 7 ways exercise supports mental health.
Exercise and Endorphins
Exercising is known to release the feel-good hormone called the endorphin. These hormones are essential as they relieve pain and stress we feel and they provide us with feelings of happiness and joy. The ‘runner’s high’ expression stands for exactly these hormones that make us feel happy when exercising. Endorphins are just one of the few neurotransmitters in our body that we activate while exercising. When we activate them, we also trigger some other chemicals that help us endure and enhance our general mood. These chemicals include dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and adrenaline. Exactly these chemicals act positively on our mental health and they treat some of the mental health issues we might experience.
Exercise and Serotonin
Serotonin is a chemical that is triggered by being physically active and it is often found in much antidepressant medication as its function is to improve our mood. The vast majority of serotonin in our bodies (75%) is located in our gut, with the remaining 25% are located in our brain. According to certain studies, exercise helps increase the function of serotonin in our bodies. How come? Well, motor activity achieved by exercising improves the rate at which serotonin is triggered and activated around the brain. It also enhances the amount of tryptophan in the brain, which is an amino acid used to create serotonin. Even though the conclusions are still vague about the correlation between exercising and serotonin release, one thing has been confirmed: serotonin levels do rise while exercising, and at the same time, they have a positive impact on our mental health..
The Actual Mental Health Benefits
Using physical exercise to improve mental health has many benefits for us, of which we are not sufficiently aware. Let’s take a look at how exactly do exercises help us in maintaining our mental health.
.Natural Energy Source
Even though this might seem illogical at first sight, it is true. When we start exercising, of course, we spend quite some energy doing these physical activities. However, the longer we exercise the more energy we’ll have. Exercising is a natural way to enhance energy levels. Certain mental health issues can cause draining effects where you don’t feel like getting up from the bed in the morning. It acts as a motivation to embrace the day and make the best of it. This is true for any kind of physical activity and the same effect is achieved through jogging, cycling, going to the gym or doing yoga. Many people report that jogging is a life-saver for them when it comes to relieving stress and gaining energy for the upcoming days. Others prefer cycling and when they get a bike from one of the highest-rated Bikes Online website, they are ready to get their energy from cycling and to seize the day.
We sometimes experience different kinds of tension in our muscles. Some physical exercises can help us ease this pain and decrease the discomfort we feel. The tension, pain and ache we feel can cause us to feel in a bad mood, so it’s essential to remove these feelings in order to feel better. And one way to do that is to engage in some physical activity such as yoga or pilates. These types of exercises help us achieve peace of mind we long for.
Sense of Achievement
Exercise is a great way to boost our self-confidence by achieving some fitness goals we have set for ourselves. This feeling is gradually built and it starts from small goals and it moves towards more complex ones. Pushing ourselves to accomplish these goals helps us feel self-worth. As a result, when we accomplish something, we feel proud and happy, which is, in turn, beneficial for our mental health.
Training the Brain
When it comes to our brain, it is a complex organ with many functions. Besides exercises activating certain chemicals, they can also enhance the size of our hippocampus. This part of our brain involves our memory, and that’s exactly why it’s crucial for us. So, by exercising we’re also boosting our memory. But that’s not all. As we exercise we create more connections between our nerve cells, which protect our mind from injury and mental illness.
Weight Control & Self-Confidence
The obvious physical results of exercising are loss of weight, muscle strengthening and development. On the other hand, being overweight or not satisfied with your weight can cause some self-confidence issues and exercising can actually help you overcome these issues. When you exercise regularly, you feel more comfortable in your body and thus you feel more self-confident. It also helps you establish a healthier and balanced diet.
Many people nowadays suffer from a problem of bad or irregular sleep. Exercising on a regular basis can help you sleep better by relaxing your muscles and tiring you out. Sleep is crucial as it is the time when our body and mind recharge and recuperate.
Our busy and hectic lifestyles put us under a lot of stress and pressure and this often causes feelings of anger and frustration. If kept bottled up, these negative feelings can cause severe problems with our physical and mental health. So, what we need to do is to find a healthy outlet for them. And one of the healthiest things you can do to assure your wellbeing is to exercise regularly. By releasing the positive chemicals previously mentioned, working out helps frustration and negative feelings subside.
Some types of exercises involve certain social interactions. Some of them are individual, but even those can include some social interaction. A great way to cure isolation caused by depression and anxiety is to join a gym or aerobics class. In that way, you can connect to people who share the same interests as you.
Cure for depression and anxiety
Many studies that were conducted show a positive correlation between exercising regularly and curing depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. The whole world is in danger of developing some of these mental health issues, so it’s never enough of stressing out the importance of regular physical activity in our lifestyles.
How much exercise suffices?
Experts suggest that adults aged between 19 and 64 should exercise for 150 minutes a week. The exercise should involve moderate aerobic activities, including two or more days of muscle strengthening exercises. Some of the best ways to achieve diversity and the best effects are to pick activities such as try brisk walking, hiking, cycling or water aerobics. There’s another option as well and it includes 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week with exercises such as jogging/running, football, fast swimming and gymnastics. When starting out, it’s important to remember that any exercise is better than no exercise at all. And don’t worry if you can’t achieve this suggested length immediately – give your body time to adjust. Start from small, realistic goals and move towards larger ones slowly. It’s important to choose an activity that you enjoy, it will help you endure in some difficult moments where you lack motivation. It will also help you avoid draining your motivation straightaway at the mere beginning.
Having a certain amount of exercise in our lives is crucial in many aspects. It enables us to be physically and mentally healthy, to be satisfied with our looks and weight as well as self-confident, to fight off potential depression and anxiety and generally, to feel better and happier with our lives. Some great fitness tips, advice and encouragement can be found in this great resource about women’s fitness.