What Can Exercise Do For Your Mental Health?

“There is no drug in current or prospective use that holds as much promise for sustained health as a lifetime program of physical exercise.”

The above statement was made by Dr. Walter Bortz II in 1982, and since then it has been quoted by several health experts. No doubt this statement has proven to be true over time. Regular exercise can prolong your life. Being active not only benefits your heart and lung, but also the condition of other body organs. Aerobic exercise can help improve blood circulation and overall health because it helps in delivering more oxygen to the body cell—thereby countering an inherited tendency toward early death. The wonders of physical fitness are not limited to the prevention and control of numerous medical conditions, such as coronary heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and obesity. It also contributes to mental health. How you may ask? Well that will be the focus of this post. We will explain the science basis of the effectiveness of regular exercise in the management of some mental disorders. Finally we will highlight what you can do to get the right and balance exercise needed.

Exercise and mental health the scientific link

Several scientific discoveries have shown that vigorous physical activity can affect a number of mood-altering brain chemicals, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. The increased heart rate and oxygen intake that occur during aerobic exercise is responsible for the release of these chemicals. This might explain why there are many claims of mental well-being after exercising.

Exercise Can Reduce Depression

Studies have shown that physical exercise may be more effective in treating mild to moderate depression than standard antidepressant medication. The advantage of this is that physical exercise has no side-effects, unlike antidepressant drugs. As one example, a recent study done at Duke University Medical Center in the United States. Three groups of 50 people with major depression were given a different therapy for four months. One group took an antidepressant drug, another did exercise alone, and a third did both. After four months, between 60 and 70% of the patients in all three groups “were no longer clinically depressed. However, during a six-month follow-up, the patients assigned to exercise therapy “were in better shape emotionally as well as physically; their relapse rate was only eight percent.” This compared with 38% for those who took the drug and 31% for those who exercised and took the drug.

Exercise can help you manage stress and anxieties.

Different studies have suggested that exercise is an effective method of reducing stress and anxiety. Aerobic exercise such as brisk walking and jogging may offer an effective treatment for people suffering from stress and anxieties. This is due to the release of endorphins and  adrenaline that is metabolized during exercise. This chemical assists the nervous system in soothing its fight or flight responses. Furthermore, you can benefit more from your exercise and thereby interrupt constant worries flowing through your mind if you pay attention to your body (such as sensation of your feet hitting the ground or the rhythm of your breathing) and how it feels as you exercise

Exercise can reverse dementia and boost your memory 

As earlier mentioned one of the major advantages of exercise is that it helps improve blood circulation especially to the brain. This process in turn can help one to think more clearly. Furthermore, some studies have suggested that exercise can help increase not only the size of the part of the brain called the hippocampus which is responsible for memory but also the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. In addition, physical exercise helps increase the amount of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels thereby, improving focus and attention.   

Exercise can help you look your best. 

No doubt, proper exercise will help you become stronger, fitter, and more likely to project self-confidence.

Exercise can promote Sleep

If you have difficulty in sleeping, exercise may be the solution. People, who exercised regularly and vigorously, do fall asleep on average twice as fast as their sedentary counterparts.

Few suggestions that can help you overcome mental health obstacles to exercise

What is your biggest metal obstacle to exercise? Do you feel that exercise has no incentive to offer? Do you feel lonely or you lack ideas on what to do for exercise?  Or are you having problems with time, or perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. If that is how you feel, don’t panic. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful.

  1. If you lack ideas on what to do for exercise or you feel lonely, why not get a gym membership. There you will find people to exercise with, and idea won’t be a problem
  2. Take responsibility for your health
  3.  Avoid making excuses. For example, you don’t need to sign up at a gym to start your exercise program. Just find an activity that you enjoy and make it part of your routine.
  4. Have a specific schedule. Set goals and log your progress to keep yourself motivated
  5.  Expect setbacks, and don’t give up when you face them.

Final remark Always remember this fact: the human body is designed to move around and engage in regular physical activity. A sedentary life-style is harmful to your health. And there is no vitamin, medicine, food, or surgical procedure that can replace your need to remain active. Thus, if you want to live a healthier, happy and longer life, I will encourage you to stay active, not only once in a while but regularly. Yes you have to work those muscles.


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