What Mental Health Benefits Can I Get From Exercise?

Posted July 26, 2019 in Health, Medical, Recovery No Comments »
mental health female athlete

Exercise isn’t simply about muscle size and aerobic capacity. Of course, exercise can help to improve your physique and physical health, add years onto your life, improve your sex life, and trim your waistline. However, those are not things that motivate most people to remain active. You might be surprised to realize that you can get several mental health benefits from exercise.

Individuals who exercise on a regular basis have a tendency to do it because it provides them with a great feeling of well-being. They have a tendency to feel a lot more energic throughout their day, have sharper memories, sleep much better at night, are more relaxed, and feel more positive about their lives and themselves. It is a powerful medicine as well for numerous mental health issues.  

Exercising on a regular basis can have a very positive impact on ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other condition. It also gives your overall mood a boost, helps you sleep much better, improves your memory, and relieves stress. It also isn’t necessary to be a total fitness fanatic in order to enjoy the benefits. According to research, even modest levels of exercise can make a big difference. NO matter what your fitness level or age is, you can learn how exercise can be used as a powerful tool to help you feel better. 

Mental Health Benefits From Exercise

Depression and Exercise 

According to studies, exercise can help to treat moderate and mild depression just as effectively but without the side effects of antidepressant medication. As one example of this, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a recent study that found that walking for one hour or running for 15 minutes per day reduced the risk of developing major depression by 26%. Along with relieving depression symptoms, it has also been shown by research that maintaining a regular exercise schedule can also help to prevent a relapse.

There are several reasons why exercise is so powerful at fighting depression. Most important of all, it helps to promote all different types of changes inside of the brain, including reduced inflammation, neural growth, and new activity patterns which help to promote feelings of well-being and calm. It releases endorphins as well, which are powerful chemicals inside of your brain that makes you feel really good and energize your spirits. Finally, exercise also can serve as a distraction, which allows you to find quiet time for breaking out of negative thought cycles that help to feed depression.

athletes with depression

Anxiety and Exercise 

Exercise is an effective and natural anti-anxiety treatment. It helps to relieve stress and tension, boost mental and physical energy, and enhance your well-being through releasing endorphins. Anything that can help to get you moving is useful, but if you pay attention rather than zoning out you will benefit more. 

For example, try noticing the rhythm of your own breathing, feeling the wind as it touches your skin or the sensation as your feet hit the ground. When you add the element of mindfulness – by really focusing on the way that your body feels while you are exercising it can not only help to improve your physical condition more quickly, but you might also be able to interrupt your flow of worrying constantly that continues to run through your head constantly. 

The Sense of Coherence Scale is a scale estimating how people view life and might use their resources to overcome resistance and develop their mental health. By exercising regularly and stimulating your body, you improve focus and your sense of coherence, which typically results in less stress and anxiety.

Stress and Exercise 

Have you ever noticed the way your body feels whenever you are under a lot of stress? Your muscles might be tense, especially those in your shoulders, neck, and face, which leaves you with painful headaches, or neck or back pain. You might feel muscle cramps, a pounding pulse, or tightness inside of your chest. You might also experience such problems as frequent urination, diarrhea, stomach ache, heartburn, or insomnia. The discomfort and worry of all of those physical symptoms might lead to even higher stress levels, which can create a vicious cycle between your body and mind. 

Exercise is highly effective for breaking the cycle. In addition to releasing endorphins inside of the brain, exercise also helps to relieve tension within the body and relax the muscles. Since the body and body are linked very closely, your mind will feel much better when your body does. 

ADHD and Exercise 

Exercising on a regular basis is one of the most effective and easiest ways to reduce ADHD symptoms and improve mood, memory, motivation, and concentration. Physical activity provides an immediate boost to the brain’s serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels – which all affect attention and focus. Exercise works in a very similar way that ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin do. If exercise isn’t working well and you need additional support, you can find out more about getting help at ADHD Chicago, a renowned resource for therapy and psychiatric treatment.

Exercise, Trauma, and PTSD 

There is evidence that suggests that when you really focus on your body and the way it feels while you are exercising, you actually can help get your nervous system “unstuck” and start to move away from immobilization stress responses that are characteristic of trauma or PTSD. Rather than letting your mind wander, instead pay very close attention to all of the physical sensations in your muscles and joints, as well as the insides of your body as it is moving. Exercise involving cross-movement that also engages both legs and arms – like dancing, weight training, swimming, running, and walking (in the sand especially) are some of the best options.

Outdoor activities such as skiing (cross-country and downhill), whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, sailing, and hiking also have been shown to help reduce PTSD symptoms. Whichever sport or exercise you choose, you can be sure you will realize at least some mental health benefits with exercise.

When All Else Fails

Exercise should be a great help towards keeping a positive mindset. However, at a certain point, we do have to admit that we can benefit from occasional therapy. If exercise isn’t working for you or you feel like you could benefit from some added counseling check out the services at BetterHelp.com and get yourself in to chat with a psychologist or therapist. It can’t hurt to give a therapist a chance to help.

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