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How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?

People rarely associated physical exercise with mental well being. Medical professionals always recommend exercise citing the health benefits to avoid cardiovascular, and other health risks.

Unhealthy lifestyles can contribute to an array of physical problems and can play an equally important role in your mental health and maintaining a sense of well-being. In recent times, considering the recent pandemic, researchers and medical professionals alike have begun studying the mental effects of physical exercise.

The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health

It is becoming more common to find that people who frequently exercise enjoy preventative and therapeutic psychological benefits from their workouts. While studies have not been able to identify which exercise is more beneficial to mental health, however The University of British Columbia researched the benefits of regular exercise that gets your blood flowing properly, such as aerobic exercise, boost the part of your brain that is involved in verbal memory and learning.

Depression is the most studied mental health disorder in relation to exercise, but new studies are finding similar psychological benefits of exercise in the treatment of anxiety.In fact, in one study exercise was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder, while participants in a two-week exercise program showed significant improvements in anxiety sensitivity.

How Does Exercise Affect the Brain?

Apart from increased blood flow performance, there have been many other theories that have surfaced around the effect of exercise on the brain. The 2 that stand are;

  1. Exercise increases serotonin (a neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants)levels.

  2. Exercise helps improve sleep. With better sleep, mood improves.

Besides the two theories listed already, there have been other links with the effects of exercise on the brain and mental functioning which include the release of endorphins in the body (Endorphins are a chemical in the brain associated with positive mood); the constant break down of muscle tension through exercise might improve sleep and reduce physical pain and discomfort associated with depression; improvements in self-esteem, a feeling of accomplishment and feelings of self-worth; and an interruption of cycles of negative thoughts and feelings.

How to Get Started with Exercising to Improve your Mental Health

One of the biggest mistakes which people make when they think about starting to exercise is they start with a goal that initially may not be easy to achieve. The best way to start is to start small, maybe taking a walk 2-3 times a week and then to build once you have established an effective routine that you are able to commit to that will in turn increase your overall well being.