How can exercise improve my mental health?
14 July 2017
Everyone knows that regular exercise benefits us physically, but did you know that it can help to keep our minds healthy too? It has been proven to have a positive impact on issues such as depression, anxiety and even ADHD as well as helping us to improve our sleep, relieve stress and boost our overall mood. It doesn’t matter about your age or fitness level, here are some of the ways regular physical activity can make you feel great.
Hitting the gym isn’t just about shedding inches off your waist, it can also help to get rid of some of the most common physical manifestations of stress such as headaches, tense muscles and stomach ache. Suffering from stress can be a vicious cycle, and the best way to break this is to exercise to release some much-needed endorphins in the brain. The fact is, when our brain feels good, our body also reaps the rewards.
Improves our confidence
Confidence and self-esteem are closely linked and both relate to the way that we feel about ourselves and how we perceive our self-worth. This is a key indicator of our mental health. Staying physical has a proven positive influence on our self-esteem particularly activities such as lifting weights, aerobics classes and Tai Chi. This particular 2008 study in the “Journal of Education and Human Development” found that males witnessed an increased feeling of sports competence whereas females had increased positive feelings about their physical attractiveness.
Keeps dementia at bay
The average life expectancy of humans has increased tremendously over the past number of years, but this has led to more people suffering cognitive decline, particularly illnesses such as dementia. The main symptom of this is memory loss but keeping up a level of physical fitness has been shown to delay this somewhat by approximately 20-30%. What’s more, certain sports can improve cognitive skills such as multitasking and quick reaction times.
Reduces depression and anxiety
Those who suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can benefit enormously from exercise. Even moderate physical activity will release feel-good brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and endorphins that can ease troubling symptoms for several hours. Certain studies have also shown that those who exercise regularly have lower rates of depression and anxiety than those who don’t and it is presumed that this is because it enables our brains to better cope with stress.
Helps our overall mood
It is not uncommon for us to feel happier after a long walk or a brisk jog. In one study, participants were asked how they felt immediately after physical activity and immediately after a period of inactivity. Overall, it was found that they felt more content, more awake and calmer after they had exercised. Many people choose to exercise with friends or within a team, another thing that has been proven to positively impact the way that we feel.
Why not see for yourself? Take up a physical activity you know you’ll enjoy today, and you’re bound to see the effects not only on the outside but on the inside too.