From reducing stress to easing symptoms of anxiety and depression, here are five ways a consistent exercise routine can improve mental health and promote mental wellness
There are several physical benefits of exercise: weight control, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of diabetes and increased energy, to name a few. Physical exercise can play an important role in mental well-being and can even relieve symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, thus promoting mental wellness. One in 10 adults in the United States struggles with depression, and antidepressant medications are a common way to treat the condition. However, pills aren't the only solution. Studies suggest that physical exercise may help ward off mental health problems before they start. Research also shows exercise can improve mental health by reducing the symptoms of many existing mental illnesses.
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits of exercises. Even a simple 20-minute stroll can clear your mind, reduce stress and make a real difference in the long run. Here are five ways exercise improves mental health and promotes mental wellness:
Eases symptoms of anxiety and depression
Exercise is a scientifically proven mood booster that works to decrease symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Physical activity increases endorphin levels, the body’s “feel good” chemical that produces feelings of happiness. Even moderate exercise throughout the week may ease depression and anxiety and improve mental health, so much so that some doctors recommend trying out an exercise regimen for these conditions before turning to medication. Studies also show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.
Another mental benefit of exercise is reduced stress levels. The most common physical signs of stress include sleeping problems, sweating and loss of appetite. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. Research on employed adults has found that highly active individuals tend to have lower stress rates compared to individuals who are less active.
Promotes better sleep
Good sleep is a crucial part of overall mental wellness. Even short bursts of exercise can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote better sleep. Sleep in turn helps us to recover from mental as well as physical exertion. Addressing sleep and sleep disorders in order to improve mental health is very important, and should not be overlooked. Insomnia can affect our mood, energy as well as concentration levels. Physical activity increases body temperature, which can have calming effects on the mind, thus helping us get a good night’s sleep and promoting mental wellness.
May increase self-esteem and self-confidence
Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When exercise becomes a habit, it can boost your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful, thus contributing to your overall mental wellness. A shrinking waistline and improved strength and stamina can help boost your self-image. The renewed vigor and energy may help you succeed in many tasks, and the discipline of regular exercise may help you achieve other important life goals and improve mental health.
From building intelligence to strengthening memory, exercise boosts brain power in a number of ways. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline. It also helps with memory loss by strengthening the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Studies also prove that physical activity boosts creativity and mental energy, thus providing you with inspiration while easing symptoms of anxiety and boosting self-confidence.