Exercise has many benefits to our health.
Staying active can help reduce the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.
It keeps our heart and lungs in good shape and helps us maintain a healthy weight.
But getting out for a walk or lifting weights has benefits which go beyond your waistline.
Today we’re going to look at all the ways staying physically active supports mental health in addition to physical health.
Exercise Helps Reduce Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression
Anxiety is a natural and normal response to stress.
It can help put us on heightened alert and be ready to face danger.
However, living with constant anxiety is not normal, and people with anxiety disorders deal with excessive amounts of anxiety, beyond what most others experience.
Anxiety can make it difficult to do day-to-day tasks and affect people’s performance at school or in the workplace.
Likewise, everyone feels depressed from time to time.
From not getting that job you really wanted, to breakups, or losing loved ones, there are times when it’s normal to feel depressed.
However, when those feelings of sadness persist, it can lead to clinical depression.
Unfortunately, when you’re anxious or depressed, getting motivated to exercise can be difficult, but it’s also worth it.
Aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, and some of the benefits include:
- Releasing endorphins which promote a sense of well being
- Increasing confidence
- It’s a healthier way to cope
- Giving you something else to focus on
Helps Alleviate Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, is an incredibly common condition in children, and also very prevalent in adults.
It’s characterized by an inability to focus, excessive movement and fidgeting, and acting impulsive.
Getting active can help improve your cognition and can help with symptoms of ADHD.
Exercise has been shown to have positive effects for adults with ADHD, including:
- Improving memory
- Reducing stress
- Better impulse control
- Helps with executive function
May Be Beneficial For People With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post traumatic stress disorder, or PSTD, can develop in individuals who have experienced a particularly scary or dangerous event.
Although most people will recover from these sorts of events with the passage of time, in some individuals they can result in CPTSD, which can result in feelings of stress and fear, even when there is no imminent danger.
Regular exercise can help reduce some symptoms of PTSD, including sleep difficulties, depression, and anxiety.
Other Benefits Of Exercise For Mental Health And Well Being
Some other ways exercise can be beneficial for mental health include:
- Acting as a distraction for negative emotions – no, we’re not saying to try to forget bad things altogether, however it’s not healthy to dwell on them either, and exercise can help with this.
- Lowers the hormone cortisol which contributes to stress
- Attending group exercise classes or joining a running club can be a great source of social support
- Improves sex drive
- Improves your confidence
- More clarity of thought
- Improves memory
- Protects your brain against disease and injury
- Releasing pent-up tension
- More energy
- Better mental alertness
- Helps manage weight
- Helps you cope with stress better
“A big trend nowadays is social prescribing,” says FitIn CEO Catherine Chan. “It reflects that healthcare professionals understand and support that getting social has a huge impact on mental and physical health.”
“The best part is you don’t need an actual prescription,” Chan continues. “Simply sign up for a fitness class or walking group with friends, and reap all those incredible benefits of being amongst others in a social setting. Private group fitness classes are perfect for this.”
Getting Started With Physical Activity
If you’re not already active but would like to be for all its benefits, then let’s look at how to get started.
You don’t have to go from being a couch potato to a marathon runner overnight – heck, you don’t need to be a marathon runner at all.
Starting small, fifteen to thirty minutes each day of moderate activity is a great way to get moving, and it doesn’t have to be all at once, so if it’s easier for you to fit in three shorter walks, then that’s perfectly fine.
This can be anything from going for a walk to putting on your favourite music and dancing it out in your apartment, or joining an online dance class if you prefer more structure.
Don’t be afraid to try out a variety of activities until you find the right fit for you – there are as many different types of exercise as there are people, and you don’t have to love all of them.
And, if you do want to build up to something more ambitious, like running a marathon, then it’s important to find a good training plan, start small and work your way up, to avoid the risk of overexertion and injury.
Furthermore, if you have a condition that could get in the way of training, such as heart issues, speak to your doctor about your plans to make sure you’re doing it in the safest way possible.
Exercise is for everyone and moving your body should be a fun and joyful experience, it’s just a matter of finding the right fit for you.