Physical exercise is directly linked to mental health and general well-being. It’s important to take care of your mental health, just like you would any other physical condition. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to be physically active. Engaging in regular physical activity can increase energy levels, relieve tension and stress, and promote an overall sense of well-being.
Surveys recommend doing at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. That may seem like a lot, but remember that every move counts, even for just a few minutes.
Physical activity can range from walking and hiking to yoga, gardening, or playing sports—anything that helps you feel good. Body and mind are intertwined, so when your body feels better, chances are your mind will too.
Benefits of physical exercise for mental health
Physical exercise has a lot to offer for mental health. Six common benefits you can reap from incorporating exercise into your daily life are:
1) Reduced stress and anxiety
One of the most crucial ways exercise can improve mental health is to reduce stress. Some amount of stress is normal at every stage of life, but if you don’t have effective coping mechanisms, stress can build up to negatively impact your mental and physical health.
Levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that control your mood can be regulated by exercise. It can increase endorphins, which are the molecules that improve mood while decreasing your level of cortisol, one of the main stress hormones.
Post-workout, you may find that you are immediately calmer due to the profound impact exercise has on the brain. Exercising as part of your schedule can also have a lasting impact on your mood.
2) Improved cognition
Exercise is associated with better cognitive health. Numerous studies have shown that exercise improves working memory, episodic memory, executive functioning and attention span. Physical exercise can contribute to the best possible maintenance of your cognitive health.
Your emotional well-being can be affected by the performance of your cognitive abilities. Keeping your mind in top shape is key to maintaining or improving your emotional health, as cognitive difficulties can make you feel lost or alone.
3) Confidence boost
Regular exercise has several physical benefits, including increased muscle tone, weight loss, and endurance.
All together, they can lead to a huge boost in self-esteem and the confidence that goes with it. You probably haven’t been looking for better-fitting clothes, a slimmer frame, and the ability to climb a hill without getting out of breath.
This often happens before you even notice it. This is just one of the many benefits of exercise for body, mind, and spirit.
4) Release of feel-good hormones
Cortisol levels drop following exercise. Plus, it increases endorphins, the body’s feel-good compounds that naturally improve mood.
Your mind could be distracted from various problems by doing physical exercise. Although it is not a solution to your problems, it can bring you to a zen state where you feel good about yourself.
5) Improved sleep
Exercise can also help you sleep better if you have difficulty doing so. Exercise raises body temperature, which can have relaxing effects on the mind and make people less likely to count sheep and more likely to sleep.
The circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that determines when you feel alert and tired, is also regulated by exercise. Although one of the psychological benefits of exercise is better sleep, sleep experts advise against exercising right before bed.
6) Inspire others
Exercise rarely happens in isolation, whether it’s playing football, taking a class at the gym, or just going for a run with a friend, which is great news.
Studies have shown that when paired with an exercise partner, most people perform better in aerobic assessments. Being part of a team is very effective; in fact, it can raise an athlete’s pain threshold. During a sweat session, even fitness newbies can motivate each other to come out stronger. So choose a training partner and get moving.
Traditional treatment approaches such as medication and psychotherapy are prevalent, but regular exercise has been shown to be a beneficial additional treatment approach.
Physical exercise encourages the release of brain chemicals that can help you feel less stressed, more confident, happier, sleep better, and have better cognitive and memory functions.
Specifically, regular physical exercise has been shown to benefit a wide range of mental health conditions, such as depression, ADHD, general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, OCD, and PTSD.
Janvi Kapur is a counselor and holds a master’s degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.
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