Exercise has been extensively studied and validated for its ability to help address a variety of mental problems and conditions, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, addictions, relationship problems, dementia grief and personality disorders.
As far as mental issues are concerned, exercise is safe when done correctly and appropriately. Just like medicines used to treat mental illness, exercise improves serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain. It normalizes neurotransmitter levels, which will ultimately help us “feel” better.
Aside from the aforementioned benefits, exercise is also able to enhance mood, increase energy, promote relaxation, improve mental clarity, boost memory and cognitive functioning, increase one’s self esteem and enable us to have more enthusiasm for life.
If you are suffering from mental health issues, consider exercise as part of a holistic approach to your healing. Take a look at the various ways you can tap exercise in your own mental health struggle:
1. Improve Your Memory Through Exercise
Exercise helps enhance your memory because of several reasons. It has the ability to lower your body’s insulin resistance, stimulate the release of growth factors and reduce inflammation. Moreover, because exercise improves sleep and mood, as well as reduce anxiety and stress it protects the brain from cognitive impairment.
2. Boost Your Self-Esteem with Exercise
Self-esteem is how we perceive our self-worth and how we feel about ourselves. It is a major indicator of our ability to cope with stress. A higher self-esteem is associated with better mental health. When you feel good about yourself your self esteem improves. You’ll feel more positive, confident and loving towards yourself and others.
3. Motivate Yourself Through Exercise
A lack of motivation can negatively impact a person’s mental wellbeing. That’s because lacking in motivation means not feeling any enthusiasm to do things, to enjoy life, or to want to get up each morning thinking of all the wonderful things that await you. By taking that step to engage in a physical activity, you’ll have an increase in energy and this in turn will enable you to have a renewed interest in activities that you may no longer find interesting.
4. Overcome Roadblocks
Exercising can be challenging physically but a lot of people also have this internal struggle when it comes to working out. To ensure you get the most out of your exercise, you need to commit to doing it for the long run. While you may be able to see the short-term benefits of exercise to your mental health as quickly as your first Yoga class in Gold’s gym, you’ll notice a more profound effect only after weeks or even months of doing it. Whether it is not having enough time or being too stressed, it’s crucial to be able to overcome roadblocks to exercising.
Impact of Physical Activity on Wellbeing & Mood
Physical activity has a big potential to improve our wellbeing. Studies show that even short bursts of brisk walking (10 minutes) increases our energy, improves mood, and enhances mental alertness.
There are several studies that have assessed physical activity at different levels of intensity and the corresponding effect of said activity on people’s mood. Overall, research determined that low-intensity aerobic exercise performed 3–5 days a week for 12 weeks results in more positive moods such as enthusiasm and alertness.
Stress Management Through Exercise
When certain events in our lives happen that make us upset and disrupts our balance in some way, our body’s natural defense create a stress response, which in turn may make us feel some physical symptoms that are uncomfortable and result in altered behaviors.
Common signs of stress are: sweating, sleeping problems, and loss of appetite. The hormones that trigger our “flight or fight” response adrenaline and noradrenaline, will often cause elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate and increased perspiration while another stress hormone called cortisol releases sugar and fat into the system to increase our energy readying our body to “fight or flight.”
Fortunately, exercise can help combat stress and studies have found that people who exercise have much lower stress levels than those who do engage in physical activity.
How Much Exercise is Needed?
Adults should aim to be active daily and complete 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week. This may seem like a lot but it really isn’t. If you feel you don’t have 30 minutes a day to engage in physical activity, consider breaking it down to just 10 minutes 3x a day.
Adopting a more active lifestyle does not have to mean making major changes in your routine. In fact, it can be as simple as doing daily tasks in a more “physical” way such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or brisk-walking with your dog.