You are pretty much aware of how regular exercise can benefit your physical health. Your doctor tells you to exercise to lower your risk of developing diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Also, exercising regularly helps you maintain a healthy body weight.
However, some of us often overlook the mental well-being benefits of exercise. Exercise can help fight off depression, help you get a better good night’s sleep, and help you feel good about yourself. In short, exercise is a powerful medicine to fight off mental health problems.
The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health
Exercise helps people who have mental health issues manage their symptoms. Simultaneously, it is advantageous for mentally healthy people, as it improves sleep quality, increases energy levels, decreases stress levels, and many more. Here are some reasons to convince you to start exercising:
1. Decreased Stress Hormones and Increased Happy Hormones
The study behind exercise as beneficial to mental health boils down to hormones. During exercise, stress hormones called cortisol and adrenaline in the body decrease. Then the so-called feel-good chemicals in the brain known as endorphins are produced. That’s why you feel you’re in a good mood after a good exercise.
Exercise takes your mind away from negative emotions or problems, thereby reducing depression and anxiety. You will be amazed at how a simple 30-minute exercise plan five days a week can do wonders for your mental well-being.
2. Higher Self-Confidence
There are two ways adhering to a regular exercise program can help you gain confidence. First, you get into shape, making you feel confident about your appearance. The second reason is exercise can help you boost your self-esteem.
Sometimes confidence in oneself and self-esteem affect a person’s body perception. So when your body image improves from seeing your exercise routine paying off, you feel better about the way you look. This positive feeling also helps ease depression and anxiety.
3. Improved Everyday Function
Do you want to perform better at school or work? Are you finding natural ways to feel mentally sharp and increase your concentration? Do you want to feel more energized during the day to improve your everyday function?
You can achieve all these with regular physical activity. That’s because exercise stimulates the brain by increasing blood flow to your gray matter.
After a good workout and as you adhere to a regular exercise program over time, you’ll feel more energized to do your daily tasks. You also don’t get tired as easily as you used to. You have a sharper memory, and you just feel good about yourself every day. When you keep up with this pattern, positive emotional and mental health will be part of your everyday life.
4. Better Sleeping and Eating Patterns
Have you noticed that after a good exercise during the day, you instantly fall asleep when you lay in bed at night? This is because exercising regularly can help you sleep better at night. Not getting enough sleep will make you feel cranky and tired the next day, and this may take a toll on your mental well-being.
In addition, as you exercise, you get conscious of what you eat. People who exercise regularly tend to eat healthy foods compared to those who don’t. A good diet combined with quality sleep will benefit your physical and mental well-being more than if you just eat well or sleep on time.
5. Increased Resilience
Resilience is a person’s ability to adapt to difficult life situations and stressors. People who regularly exercise don’t resort to unhealthy coping habits like illegal drugs, alcohol, or negative behaviors. This is why exercise is good for mental health, because if you have a present mental illness, unhealthy coping habits will make the symptoms worse.
Physical activity helps you build your resilience to face emotional and mental challenges the healthy way. Those who have major depressive disorder, anxiety, or panic disorder can benefit the most from exercising regularly. Individuals who have strong resilience learn to cope the healthy way and can handle stress well.
Recommended Exercises and Physical Activities to Improve Mental Well-Being
You don’t need an expensive gym membership or work out long hours in the gym to take care of your mental well-being. There are many exercises and physical activities you can do without spending a single penny. Studies show that a 30-minute exercise 5 times a week can significantly help manage depression and anxiety symptoms.
Here are some of the physical activities you can do to take care of your mental health:
- Outdoor running or biking. Other than the mental health benefits of outdoor physical activity, spending time in nature, known as ecotherapy, can help with mild to moderate depression.
- Yoga. Hatha yoga, for instance, is the most popular type of yoga to help fight depression. Yoga, especially combined with meditation and controlled breathing, can help you relax and improve your mental health.
- Tai chi. This Chinese martial art combines slow body movements, rhythmic breathing, and meditation. It is also called “meditation in motion.” Studies show that tai chi helps mental health patients reduce their stress and anxiety, as well as improve their mood and self-esteem.
- Doing chores or increasing physical activity in your office. Cleaning the house, washing your car, tending your garden, sweeping the sidewalk, running around with your kids in the yard, swimming, walking around the office, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and briskly walking to the bus stop before going to work are short exercises but are very helpful in taking care of the mental health.
As you can see, you don’t need to spend a single penny to keep your body moving. There are many creative physical activities to stay active while having fun and spending time with your family. You can follow home workout videos on YouTube or play your favorite happy or upbeat music and dance for 30 minutes straight.
Physical activity must not just be a once- or few-times-a-week thing. It should be a permanent part of your lifestyle for you to experience and appreciate its long-term positive effects on your mental health.
However, if depression and anxiety are starting to affect your daily life, seek the help of a mental health professional now. Exercise is useful in managing the symptoms of a mental illness; however, pairing it with talk therapy will help you recover faster. If you need to find mental health professionals, Kentucky Counseling Center can help make your exercise regime more effective in treating your depression or anxiety.
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