Exercise is not only about getting fitter or developing muscles but is also great for improving mental health. Exercise promotes a better sense of wellbeing. Those who exercise daily find it gives them feelings of inner calmness, more positivity and extra energy throughout the day. Their mood improves and they enjoy a better night’s sleep.
This article explores why exercise has this effect on mental health and the links between physical activity and the brain.
Some of the established links between exercise and mental health
Let’s have a look at some of the facts regarding exercise and mental health:
- There are strong links between people who exercise and reduced anxiety, depression and stress.
- In controlled tests, the groups of people who exercised regularly had sharper memories, better sleep and a more positive mood.
- Even as little as 15 minutes of exercise a day has been shown to be a powerful tool to help deal with mental health problems such as depression.
What type of exercise do you need to do?
The best type of exercise to do is the one you enjoy the most. Go for a walk, a bike ride, a jog or a swim. These all count. If you are someone who likes to go to the gym but have been struggling throughout the national lockdowns then a set of adjustable dumbbells from DN Fitness could be the answer for you to get you lifting weights at home. If you prefer low impact exercise then you could try something like yoga or Tai chi. The important thing this that you enjoy it as you are more likely to stick at it.
Exercise relieves stress, anxiety and depression
Exercise is a strong tool in the fight against depression. It promotes different kinds of chemical reactions in the brain, reduces inflammation and promotes the healthy development of neurons which have been shown to reduce depression.
When you exercise, endorphins are released. These are known as the feel-good hormone. They are a great way to achieve a better mood and lesson any worries or feelings of anxiety you may have. If you ever feel like there’s too much on your mind then taking some time out to exercise can help you organise your thoughts and effectively move forward. Something as simple as going for a walk and feeling the sun shining down or going for a run and feeling the wind on your face can help with worry and anxiety.
Stress is the cause of many problems. Have you ever taken note of how your body feels when you are under stress? Tightness in your stomach and headaches can be some of the symptoms as well as tension in your neck, shoulders and muscles. The release of endorphins as a result of exercise can alleviate these feelings.
Exercise and Serotonin
Serotonin is the chemical messenger involved in a variety of processes throughout the body. It improves digestion and it improves mood. When we perform exercise, the body delivers an amino acid called Tryptophan to the brain where it is changed into Serotonin, increasing the amount of Serotonin in the body.
Serotonin helps with sleep. It also helps regulate appetite, improves memory & learning and encourages feelings of positivity. So an increased level can mean a better night’s sleep and a more positive outlook on life. Conversely, low serotonin levels can result in feelings of anxiety, depression and low mood.
Exercise and the brain
When you perform exercise you increase the rate of blood flow around the body. Increased blood flow means that nutrients can be delivered more effectively to every part of our body, particularly the brain. More specifically the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning. This can even help with chronic illnesses in later life such as dementia.
The bottom line is that exercise can have a very positive effect on the way you look and the way you feel.