Everyone knows that exercise is good for improving health and reducing weight. However, regular exercise can also help your mental health. This is because it can improve your mood, improve sleep and help you regulate your emotions. Below are more details about the mental health benefits of regular exercise.
Many studies show that exercise can help with mild-moderate depression as effectively as medication. Simply running for 15 minutes, or walking for an hour can reduce the risk of major depression by 26%. Research also shows that maintaining a regular exercise routine can prevent a depressive relapse. Exercise is effective at fighting depression as it promotes brain activity. This includes neural growth, new activity patterns that promote calmness, and a reduction in inflammation. Exercise also releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Lastly, exercise can be a great distraction technique, giving you time to breathe and break out of a depressive thought cycle.
Exercise can help to reduce tension and stress, thus making it a great anti-anxiety treatment. As we know, exercise releases endorphins, which enhances your mood, however, focusing on movement can also reduce anxiety. Instead of zoning out during a walk or workout, focus on what you are doing. Pay attention to how your feet hit the pavement, how the dumbbells feel in your hand, or on your breathing. By doing this you add mindfulness to your workout. This allows your body to calm down, re-regulate, and interrupts the anxious thoughts in your brain.
Pay attention to how you feel when you’re stressed. Often our muscles are tense, especially through the neck, shoulders, and back. Maybe you also feel a tightness in your chest or suffer from headaches. Some people also experience stress-related insomnia, heartburn, and gut problems. These feelings can even manifest into even more stress, thus creating a problematic cycle. Exercising gives you an effective way to break the cycle, and relieve physical tension. This in turn helps your muscles to relax, which minimizes the physical pain you likely feel. Your body and mind are closely linked, so the better your body feels, the better your mental health.
As your body releases endorphins, your body also experiences the growth of new brain cells. This helps you to concentrate better and also helps improve your memory capabilities. Regular exercise can help you to focus at work, thus making you more productive and less distracted. Furthermore, exercising daily can help to regulate your sleeping patterns. To experience a night of better sleep, consider yoga or stretching at night to relax your body and mind.
Exercising is a great way to boost your mood and help you feel strong and powerful. This investment into your overall health can greatly improve how you feel about yourself. Foster your own self-worth by setting small fitness goals that you can celebrate achieving. We are our own worse critics, so setting and achieving goals is a great way to support yourself while focusing on mental and physical health. Setting these challenges can also help you build resilience and coping mechanisms. Exercise can help you to process emotions and mental blocks in a healthy way, rather than pushing aside the issue.
Now, you don’t need to devote hours every day to exercise to see the benefits above. Instead, aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Consider walking at lunchtime, or taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Or, do a 15-minute workout first thing in the morning and a yoga routine at night. As long as you prioritize it, your mental health benefits from regular exercise.