How Can Exercise Affect My Mental Health?

Posted by on Monday, July 14, 2014

Fitness for mental health

Exercise And The Effects On Mental Health

As well as keeping fit or changing your look did you know that physical activity and exercise can also do wonders for your mental health? Recent studies have shown that exercise is one the most effective treatments for depression, so much so that physical therapy is now sometimes prescribed on the NHS, and more than that it is widely considered highly effective for preventing depression in the first place.

Why does it help?

Exactly why exercise is so effective in maintaining good mental health hasn’t been formally discovered. It has been suggested that the key is held by our primitive ancestors. Historically, humans are very active creatures, spending most of their time hunting and gathering food. Therefore it could be that we are designed to enjoy some level of exercise, to ensure that in survival situations we are motivated to gather food and water and find shelter.

What is a certainty that exercise releases ‘happy hormones’ and growth hormones in the brain. It is proven that dopamine and serotonin are released during exercise – which communicate with each other and change your mood and energy levels.

How does it help?

There are so many ways that exercise can have a positive affect on mental health – so much so that you will wonder why you never realised this in the first place!

Control – often people suffering depression or anxiety feel like they have lost control. In fact this is also true when we are stressed – we feel like we are losing control of what we have to do and when. Exercising puts us in control of our bodies – of how they look and feel, so people often feel better equipped to control their stress too.

Motivation – once feelings of stress, depression or anxiety set in then motivation starts to plummet. Naturally people will increasingly shy away from activity such as working, seeing friends or even daily tasks like shopping! Exercise is a really effective way of breaking this cycle and starting to get active again.

Sleep – a significant side effect of stress is inability to sleep. By doing 30 minutes of exercise a day your mind is clear and body fatigued ready for a sound sleep when bedtime comes.

Eat better – it is easy to lose appetite when you are stressed or depressed. Making your body works makes your body hungry, and once you start eating properly again you will quickly gain an appetite again.

If you do team sports or exercise classes you can easily socialise with new people without it being too daunting. If you have become quite shy doing an activity with new people means you have immediately got a conversation starter, and interacting with others is key to a healthy mind.

Exercise can boost brain power and creativity – so if you are stressed because you are finding your workload hard, or you have a creative block, then exercise is proven to help – it is suggested that you are more creative up to 2 hours after exercising.

Exercising increases your self esteem – you might look better, day to day movement is easier, and your work becomes easier, you socialise more easily – which will all led to an increase in self esteem.

Top Exercising Tips for Body and Soul.

Whether you are exercising to get physically fit, lose pounds, or for your mental wellbeing our top tips remain the same:

Start small and don’t over do it – it can often make you feel worse if you try and achieve something straightaway that isn’t within your abilities

Set goals – once you get going setting goals can really help you focus – one of the key benefits to mental health. If you are feeling low, then going to the gym or playing a team sport and achieving something can really improve your self worth.

Find exercise that fits in with your lifestyle – if you are a busy person you will only get more stressed if you are trying to fit exercise into your timetable where it doesn’t fit.

Committing to an evening exercise class when you’re often tired or busy after work isn’t going to help, but choosing to walk some of your journey to work or having a brisk walk around the block just before you go to bed, or as soon as you get up in the morning might just work for you.

A healthy body really can lead to a healthy mind.

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