It is common knowledge that there are many benefits to our physical health from getting regular exercise, but there are also many benefits to our mental health from getting regular exercise. By exercising regularly, your depression and anxiety symptoms can lessen, improve your sleep quality, and more. In this article, we will look at the benefits to your mental health that regular exercise can offer.
Exercise Can Decrease Stress
No matter what type of exercise you are doing, it can help you decrease your stress levels. If you are doing something that increases your heart rate, that can stimulate hormones in your brain, which can improve your mood and help you think more clearly about a stressful situation. It also forces your central and sympathetic nervous systems to communicate, which can improve the body’s ability to respond to a stressful system. This can all help improve someone’s mental health.
If you prefer something like yoga, that can offer you some calmness to seek clarity from stress that can worsen depression or anxiety symptoms.
Improve Depression and Anxiety Symptoms
Getting exercise can help increase the body’s endorphins, which is the chemical in the brain that produces feelings of happiness. You do not need to rush to the gym to get this benefit either; just some moderate exercise during the week can help. Having endorphins produced from exercise can improve depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Improved Self-Esteem and Confidence
Someone’s self-esteem and confidence can impact many mental health conditions. Whether the exercise is helping someone lose weight, increase their muscle definition, improve physical strength, or improve their endurance, all of these things can feed into a person’s self-esteem and confidence.
Improved Focus and Concentration
When you exercise, your body produces dopamine, which can help improve someone’s focus and concentration. Since some mental health conditions can impact your ability to concentrate or focus, getting exercise can help you combat this.
Improve Sleep Quality
Having sleep difficulties and poor sleep quality can have a significant impact on someone’s mental health, and it can also be a symptom of some mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. However, physical activity can have a calming effect on the mind, which can help someone fall asleep and have better sleep quality. Exercise can also help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, which is the built-in alarm clock that tells your body when it is time for it to feel tired and alert. It is important to keep in mind, though, that while exercise can help your body get better sleep, it is not recommended to work out too close to bedtime.
Help You Socialize
Some forms of exercise can allow you to get out and meet new people. Whether you are joining a local walking or running group, hitting the gym, joining an exercise-related class, or even playing sports, you can get out to meet people. This can help combat feeling isolated or alone, which are often side effects of many mental health conditions, as well as the cause of them.
Exercise Can Boost Your Brainpower
Exercise can help improve your brainpower in a few different ways. It can help your body create new brain cells, and it can help prevent memory loss. It also can boost creativity and someone’s mental energy. Sometimes, just taking a walk can help someone gain inspiration on something they are struggling with. This all has the potential to help improve someone’s mental health overall.
Good Types of Exercise for Your Mental Health
There are many different types of exercise you can choose from, so if you are struggling with choosing the right one for you, here are a few types of exercise that can help with your mental health.
Walking and Running
If you have not been doing much exercise lately, walking is a good way to help you get active without overdoing it. You can start out with a short walk and slowly start going further and further until your endurance improves and you are ready for something more challenging, or you can stick to walking.
By taking walks, you can go out and spend time in local parks and enjoy nature too, which has been shown to improve mental health as well.
Yoga is not as physically strenuous as other forms of exercise, so if you are looking to get your blood pumping, yoga may not be the best choice for you. However, yoga can come with many other types of mental health benefits. Yoga often involves forms of relaxation like meditation and breathing exercises. These can help you manage your anxiety, control emotions, and feel more present. If you suffer from PTSD, the relaxation techniques in yoga can be a big help in managing those symptoms, too, especially if you have panic attacks, as they can help you get through them more easily.
Going to the Gym
If you want to push yourself a little, you can join a gym. There are a lot of types of exercise that you can enjoy when you are at the gym, and they are a good place to meet new people. However, if you are body conscious, the gym is not the best place to be, so it can be counterproductive to your mental health.
Team sports are a great form of exercise that lets you socialize and meet new people. These have a schedule, too, so if you need something consistent that you can plan for, sports are a good form of exercise for that. You will get to be part of a team and work with others to achieve a common goal. These can be great for your mental health since you will feel like you are achieving something.
About the Author
Geralyn Ritter is an accomplished corporate senior executive, miracle survivor of the 2015 Amtrak train derailment, and author of Bone by Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing. Geralyn is the executive vice president at Organon & Co., a new Fortune 500 healthcare company dedicated to the health of women.
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