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5 Incredible Benefits of Exercise For Your Mental Health

5 Benefits of Exercise for your mental health (1)

Table of Contents

Summary

In addition to the physical health benefits gained through exercise, more recent research is showing the importance and benefits physical exercise can have on our mental health. In fact, research shows that exercise can help improve just about every mental health condition.

Why Exercise Matters

Why exercise matters for your mental health

Depending on your own experience of “exercise,” different definitions and feelings might come up when you think of it. Exercise, as defined by the National Institutes of Health, states “any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness.” People engage in exercise for various reasons; enjoyment, increase strength and build muscle, slow the aging process, improve the cardiovascular system, increase athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance, and improving overall health and wellbeing. In addition to the physical health benefits gained through exercise, more recent research is showing the importance and benefits physical exercise can have on our mental health.

Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

Research shows that exercise can help improve just about every mental health condition. Unfortunately, despite the research, physical activity is underutilized to decrease symptoms associated with mood and cognitive disorders. People tend to think of exercise for weight loss or heart health, but not for brain health. Physical exercise is not only necessary for physical health, but also beneficial for our mental health.

Depression Benefits

  • Promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns.
  • Promotes feelings of calm and well-being.
  • Releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirit and make you feel good·   Can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Anxiety Benefits

  • Relieves tension and stress.
  • Boosts physical and mental energy.
  • Enhances well-being through the release of endorphins.
  • Focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.

ADHD Benefits

  • Improve concentration
  • Improve motivation
  • Improve memory, and mood
  • Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention

PTSD and Trauma Benefits

Sometimes after a traumatic event or with PTSD, your nervous system can “freeze” as a response to stress. Research suggests that focusing on your body and how it feels during exercise can help your body become “unstuck.” Exercises that involve cross movement that engages both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing can have benefits. Important: before starting any intense exercise or activity, consult a healthcare professional.

General Benefits of Exercise

General Benefits of Exercise

Even if you’re not suffering from a current mental health difficulty, regular physical activity can still offer a welcome boost to your mood, outlook, and mental well-being.

Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.

Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes routine, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your physical and mental appearance and by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more energy throughout the day. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.

Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you build resilience and cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

References

Anne Procyk,ND ( 2018). “Nutritional Treatment to Improve Mental Health Disorders: Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions for Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar & ADHD”. PESI Publishing & Media. PP23-52.

Mandolesi,Laura; Polverino, Arianna; Montuori, Simone; Foti, Francessa; Ferraioli; Sorrentino, Pierpaolo; Sorrentino, Giuseppe ( 27 April 2018). “ Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits” (http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5934999).

National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (June 2006). “Your Guide to Physical Activity and your Heart” (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/phy_active.pdf)(PDF) .S Department of Health and Human Resources.

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