Can Exercise Improve Mental Health?
Exercising can be an important part of improving both your physical and mental health. Research studies have found that exercise can lower blood pressure, ease symptoms of depression, improve sleep, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. While you will still want to seek help from your primary care physician for guidance on medication and counseling, you should consider using exercise as a supplement to these treatments. This article reveals this relationship between exercise and mental health and how the regular practice of any type of physical activity may improve your mental and physical health.
How Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health
Many people who are managing stress and anxiety look to nonpharmacologic methods to treat their symptoms, especially due to the unwanted side effects that accompany the medication. While medication is important and necessary to manage different mental health disorders, supplementing with alternative interventions, such as exercise and healthy lifestyle modifications, is an ideal option for those who look to improve their quality of life and general well-being.
Multiple studies have found that exercise can help relieve stress and anxiety. This decrease in negative emotions can be attributed to the added levels of endorphins, and serotonin exercising produces. These chemicals are known to improve one’s mood and sense of well-being. Other benefits of exercise include:
Improvement in sleeping patterns
Improved memory and cognitive functioning
Feeling more energetic throughout the day
Increased self-confidence and self-esteem
Being motivated to choose healthy methods to handle stress
Improved mood and outlook on life
Feeling more positive
A decrease in stress and anxiety
Exercise can relieve stress and anxiety not only due to physiological actions within the body, but also helps a person healthily distract themselves about the concerns of the day. When you exercise, you can focus solely on the physical task at hand and let go of any worries or stress you are currently managing. This active form of mindfulness is a healthy coping mechanism that frees you from external responsibilities into the present now of your body and mind.
Exercising To Supplement Treatment For Mental Illness
When people think of taking care of their mental health, they may think of writing in their journal or spending time socializing in a healthy manner. While these are helpful methods for nurturing your mental health, exercise can be a beneficial addition to your mental health routine. Whether you start taking a long walk during lunch or gardening in the mornings before work, adding these exercises can supplement your current mental health treatments.
Regularly exercising can help in the management of mental health disorders, such as:
Depression (Major Depressive Disorder) — a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiousness, or emptiness with loss of interest in daily activities
Schizophrenia — a serious mental illness that affects how people interpret reality; symptoms may include disorganized thinking and speech hallucinations, and delusions
Anxiety Disorder — mental health disorder that causes people to experience feelings of intense fear or worry; includes disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and a phobia or intense
Substance Use Disorder — also known as drug addiction, substance use disorder can develop from the constant use of drugs or alcohol
Bipolar Disorder — formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in mood that range from depression (hypomania) to disruptive emotional highs (mania)
Borderline Personality Disorder — mental health disorder that warps one’s thoughts and feelings about themselves, which can lead to low self-esteem and entering unstable relationships
Fitness Activity Ideas Help Improve Your Mental Health
If you are new to fitness routines or exercise of any form, the idea may seem overwhelming. However, exercise does not mean you have to run a marathon or visit a gym seven days a week. There are several options for you to choose from, including dance, yoga, or a simple walk through a pretty park.
The following are some physical activity and exercise routines that try:
Yoga for stretching, strength, and mindfulness
HIIT (high intensity interval training) for intense cardiovascular work in an upbeat atmosphere
Personal weightlifting training to strengthen the mind and the body
Learning a new sport (such as surfing or horseback riding)
Rock climbing outside or at a recreation center
Hiking outside to enjoy nature and take some time for yourself
Running outside to improve your cardiovascular health
Practicing Pilates with friends to achieve better balance and core stability
No matter which activity you choose, you most likely will leave feeling refreshed and energized. Exercise removes toxins from your body while releasing endorphins, good-feeling hormones that reduce pain and lift the mood. Beyond the mood-lifting effects of exercise, the benefits on your cardiovascular system work to strengthen your heart while lowering your blood pressure. Lastly, after only thirty minutes of exercise, your body release dopamine, another mood-lifting hormone that help reverse the effects of depression and improves resilience against stress and anxiety.
Tips For Staying Motivated
With everyday stressors such as work or school, it can be challenging to to improve your mental health and supplement your therapy or medication routine. There are ways to keep you on track and motivated.
You should first assess your current fitness level. Some people work with trainers to figure out how fit they are while others just make an educated guess based on their current workout routine. Once you determine your current level of fitness, you can set some goals for yourself. This can be anything from “perform ten push-ups in a row” to “run an entire mile without stopping.”
Next, you should figure out when you can fit some workouts into your schedule. Some people block out times on their calendar to work out while others join with friends to work out together. Many people benefit from hiring a personal trainer to help them out. Their personal trainer can help them assess their current fitness level, create realistic goals, and challenge themselves during every workout. They also follow up on these goals and help you hold yourself accountable to what you want to achieve.
FAQ About Exercise And Its Effect On Your Mental Health
Do you have specific questions about how exercise can improve your mood and overall mental health? Whether you are just starting out a new fitness program or looking to change your current approach, it never hurts to learn more about how exercising impacts your mental health. The following are some questions and answers about exercise and mental health:
Can Exercise Replace Medications Or Mental Health Counseling?
Exercising can be effective in treating both your physical and mental health. But can it completely replace medication and/or mental health counseling? According to Harvard Medical school professor, Dr. I-Min Lee, it can be a beneficial adjunctive therapy, and, in some cases, reduce the need for medication. Exercise is not only an effective type of medicine, but it comes with much fewer side effects.
The proof is in the research. Multiple studies in the past have found that exercise can lower blood pressure, ease symptoms of depression, improve sleep, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. While you will still want to seek help from your primary care physician for guidance on medication and counseling, you should consider using exercise as a supplement to these treatments.
What Are Easy Low Impact Exercises I Can Try?
If you are just starting to get into shape or have an injury you need to work through, you have several different exercise programs you can try out. Some popular, low-impact aerobic exercises you can try out include:
Running on the elliptical
As you continue through your fitness journey, you will figure out which exercises you like best and which ones are simply not your style.
What Can I Do To Stay In Shape If I Do Not Like Exercise?
When people think of exercise, they usually envision people lifting heavy weights at the gym or running miles across rugged terrain. But there are other ways to stay in shape without feeling like you’re training for a powerlifting event or a marathon.
Try integrating exercise slowly into your life. You can start by taking short walks in the morning with your dog or practicing some yoga poses after work. Finding fun exercise classes like cycling or Zumba can help you get a good workout while staying motivated and energized by your classmates. As you continue to work out and get in shape, you will find yourself more motivated than ever to get out and exercise!
Can You Exercise Too Much?
Yes. A small percentage of people struggle with compulsive exercise, also known as exercise addiction. They might skip social events or professional work events so that they can exercise. When they do not exercise, they may feel extremely guilty or anxious. People who are addicted to exercise may also workout despite feeling ill. Overexerting yourself can lead to physical problems and make you susceptible to injury.
Exercising excessively can be an indication of two compulsory behaviors related to both an eating disorder and muscle dysmorphia. If you or someone you know is showing signs of compulsive exercise, seek help as can lead to serious mental and physical health problem.
Physical activity can be therapeutic and help manage mental health disorders. However, when symptoms of a mental health disorder interrupt daily life and affect the quality of life, it may be time to contact a mental health professional for help. Current research reveals that online therapy platforms can help people managing a range of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. In a comprehensive review published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers reviewed hundreds of studies to ascertain if online therapy was an effective mental health treatment method. They concluded that therapist-supported internet interventions were moderately to extremely effective in the treatment of a wide range of mental health disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, GAD, PTSD, and major depression.
If you or someone you care for is managing a mental health issue or disorder that is intervening with their ability to enjoy life, therapy can help. Online professional mental health counselors at BetterHelp will help you recover from and manage whatever mental health problem you are dealing with. Contact our team today to learn more information.
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