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Q: Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?

The other day there was a great discussion in one of our workout sessions about how much better people say they feel after working out.

Which brought up the question, exactly does it do so?

The truth is exercise is one of the best ways you can improve your overall mental health and well being.

It not only helps to reduce anxiety & depression, it releases chemical substances such as endorphins and serotonin which improve your mood.

Ever hear of the runners “high”? That’s a perfect example of it.

Studies show that regular exercise can reduce feelings of depression or isolation and help in the recovery of other mental health problems.

But it begs another question which is….What is good mental health?

Good mental health is a state of wellbeing where an individual realizes their own potential, is able to maintain relationships and has control of all of their emotions and actions.

The sense of having a purpose, goals and adding value to each of these things are all signs of good mental health.

How Does Exercise Improves Mental Health?

Below are five ways through which exercise or physical activity improves mental health:

1. Being A Mood Booster;

2. Decreasing Stress;

3. Increasing Self-Esteem And Self-Confidence;

4. Improving Sleep;

5. Forming New Brain Cells.

1. Being A Mood Booster

Exercise is a mood booster that reduces both depression and anxiety symptoms.

Physical activity increases endorphin levels, the powerful "feel good" chemical that produces a feeling of joy and euphoria in the body.

That's the reason why some people like to perform exercise when they feel stressed.

2.Decreasing Stress

Physical activity, such as exercise, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system's function that increases the overall capacity of the body to respond to stress.

As mentioned above, exercise produces endorphins (natural painkillers of the body) that reduce stress naturally.

Exercise also improves our sleep, which consequently reduces stress.

Meditation, massage therapy, deep breathing and acupuncture are other forms of physical activity with similar benefits.

3.Increasing Self-Esteem And Self-Confidence

Doing physical activities will cumulatively lead to a whopping increase of self-esteem — and self-confidence along with it! Many of our clients will tell you the biggest benefit they’ve seen since they started with us isn’t what they see in the mirror but how much more confident they feel.

Weight loss or body toning from these activities may allow you to get better-fitting clothes, a slimmer physique or the opportunity to climb a hill without getting winded.

Being able to strengthen the body as well as the mind is one of the many advantages of physical exercise.

A useful way to approach exercise is to set goals. When someone performs exercise they will have an underlying end goal; it may be to lose weight, be more active, reduce stress or any other fitness goal. Completing the goal leads to a feeling of accomplishment and leads to a confidence boost.

Studies show that a physically fit person is more confident than someone who has not achieved their desired fitness level.

4. Improving Sleep

If you have trouble having a good night's sleep, then exercise can help. Physical activity raises the body's temperature and can have relaxing effects on the mind, resulting in better sleep.

5. Forming New Brain Cells

Studies show that aerobic exercise helps generate new brain cells — a process called neurogenesis — and improves overall brain efficiency.

It also prevents memory loss and cognitive impairment by reinforcing the hippocampus (the brain's portion responsible for memory and learning) and can significantly reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Moreover, exercise pumps blood to the brain so you can think more clearly. It is then clear to see that moderate physical activity is beneficial for us all.

The Bottom Line

Clearly regular exercise can have a significant impact on your overall mental well being both short term and long term.

Health specialists recommend 30 minutes of moderate physical activity four times a week.

Even something as basic as going for a walk each day can reap results.

However, you can choose other workouts that work better for your needs and interests.

It may take some time to find the right exercise for you, but it will be worth it for your mental health once you do!

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