May is seen as mental health awareness month, so what better time for us to talk about the impact exercise can have on mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety.
We all know how exercise keeps us physically healthy, but research has shown that people who exercise regularly heave improved mental wellbeing and decreased rates of mental illness.
Physical activity has been seen to be as effective as antidepressants or other psychological interventions when treating mild-moderate depression.
But why does exercise help us feel better mentally?
Most of the time, people exercise simply because it makes them feel good. Physical activity can boost your mood and concentration.
There is a complicated link between exercise and mental health because inactivity can be both a cause and a consequence of mental health.
Here are some of the ways your mental health can be benefited through exercise:
- Changes in chemicals like serotonin and endorphins
- Exercise can improve sleep which can improve your mood
- Exercise is a good outlet for frustration as well as a form of distraction for other issues
- It offers social opportunities with other people
- Exercise can reduce overall muscle tension and helps you feel more relaxed
The physical health benefits of exercise like increased cardiovascular health and overall physical health are just as important for people suffering with mental illness. This is because people suffering from mental health issues are at a higher risk for chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.
People often think that exercise must be intense for it to have an effect, but this is not always the case. Research shows that even low or moderate intensity exercise is enough to improve mood and thinking patterns. It is recommended that individuals should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week to keep fit and healthy. This being said, any exercise is better than none, going for a slow walk, doing yoga or even cleaning your house can count as small workouts.
If you haven’t exercised in a long time, it can be very intimidating to start. Coming up with a plan before you start can help you get going and help you stick with it.
- Do an activity you enjoy
- Start slowly and progress gradually
- Revisit your workouts and make sure you are always doing something new
- Change it if it’s not working for you
Exercising outdoor can add even more positive changes to your mental and physical wellbeing. Studies have shown that people who exercise outside show higher levels of self-esteem and enthusiasm and a lower level of depression, tension, and fatigue. People that exercise outside also tend to exercise for longer and more often than those exercising indoors.
Making exercise a part of your everyday life is crucial. Try walking or cycling to places when taking a car is not really needed, walk with your kids or your dogs, wash your car, do the gardening, or even just clean the house. As long as your body is moving around every day, you will start seeing amazing effects on your wellbeing.
If anyone needs help starting an exercise program again or anyone is struggling with their mental health, do not hesitate to contact us or anyone around you. Don’t be silent.