Regular exercise and activity are great for your body and physical health. However, in addition, did you know that it could assist you in dealing with depression, stress, anxiety, and other mental health strains? If you are someone who struggles to find the motivation to exercise, perhaps the knowledge of a mental pick me up might help you to be more active. Physical activity is good for your aerobic fitness, balance and stability, muscle strength, and can even help you to live longer! This will definitely make you feel better in general, but it goes further than that as studies show that it can have a definitive and long-lasting effect on your mental health. So how does it work?
Regular exercise helps you to sleep better, while also helping you to have more energy throughout the day. Getting a good night’s sleep has more impact than you might think, and exercise can help you to sleep deeper with fewer interruptions. This means that during the day, you will be less likely to feel tired and uncomfortable, allowing you to feel better in your daily life generally.
Studies have shown that general exercise can reduce the risk of depression and can help to reduce symptoms. One such study, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, showed that regular physical activity (e.g. a 15-minute daily run or 1-hour daily walk) could reduce your risk of depression by up to 26%.
Exercise promotes brain activity, which allows for neural growth and the development of new patterns that can help to increase feelings of success, well being, and happiness. It will also encourage the release of endorphins that boost your mood as well as helping to reduce pain and stress. Exercise will also release neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which affect your mood. Over time you will begin to associate exercise with the post-exercise feelings of happiness and delight and this will positively affect your mental health!
Stress is one of the biggest causes of prolonged mental health problems, and regular exercise can help to reduce the baseline levels of hormones associated with stress in the body. This means that over time you can change your body’s reaction to moments of stress that would normally result in large surges in stress hormone production. With less general stress and a better ability to deal with it, you can avoid the mental strain that stress can have on your daily life.
Aside from the obvious physical health benefits that come with regular exercise, the positive effect that it can have on your mental health is undeniable. Over time you can retrain your brain to react differently to stress and boost your happiness – improving your daily life and mental resistance.
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