10 Ways Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health
10 Ways Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health
Working out on a regular basis can just as health for your brain is it is for the rest of your body. Here are ways exercise can improve your mental health.
Mental health is improved by exercise but is often overlooked in treating or coping with some of the most common disorders.
Whether you’re fighting the side effects of a prescription, such as weight gain or decreased appetite, or simply trying to regain some agency in your life, exercise may be just the solution for you.
There are several benefits to including exercise as a natural part of improving your mental health.
Read more to learn about ten ways exercise can help improve your mental health.
1. Reduces Anxiety and Depression
Fortunately for you, as well as for the millions who suffer from anxiety and depression, even minimal exercise helps diminish these problems. Just 15-20 minutes a day of jogging or running, or an hour of walking reduces symptoms of major depression or anxiety.
Exercise is natural, organic, and free (unless you sign up for a gym membership). The holistic aspect of being outdoors and merely moving may be a massive draw for those already subject to pharmaceutical prescriptions.
If you’re not one for meditation, you can listen to music. A great way to get the most out of a short run or long walk is to focus on what your body is doing. Listen to your breathing or heartbeat. The natural rhythm of your body in motion can put a pause in any racing thoughts you might have.
Not only does exercise function as an organic antidepressant, but it gives a physical break in your day. If you make exercise part of your routine, your mental health will strengthen with this discipline, which can help prevent future relapses.
Regular movement changes your brain. It helps grow new brain cells and releases brain chemicals that make you feel good.
2. Lower Stress Levels
Of the many ways to reduce stress, exercise is one of the best. Those diagnosed with mental health disorders often experience heightened levels of stress. Higher stress worsens any preexisting anxiety and depression.
A lot of natural stress in your life comes from unexpected changes. When you make exercise a part of your daily routine, you will experience more structure to your day. Whatever exercise may be for you—personal time, the way you start or end your day, breaks from work—you will see your stress reduced.
3. Improves Sleep
Due to your variety of options for cardio, from running to swimming to jogging or walking, exercise will tire you out. No matter how easy you make your workout, using muscles in new ways will mean you need to rest to heal them.
The biggest bonus from this is that sleep will be easier. A body worn out from physical use is not the same body burdened by the fatigue of some mental health disorders. When your body needs rest, it’s that much harder to sustain negative self-talk or racing thoughts if your eyes are closing on their own.
That’s not to say that you should overwork yourself when exercising. Pushing yourself too hard too soon can end up ruining some of the other benefits for your mental health.
Overall, your sleep should be deeper and less interrupted. You should wake up feeling more rested, too.
4. Boosts Metabolism
More nights of good sleep mean better things for your body and mental health. You’ll notice that your dietary cravings may become more regular. You won’t be able to eat as little or as nutrient-poor foods as before.
If you’re working out consistently, you’ll notice a few other changes because of your higher metabolic rate, too. Low metabolisms are one of the many symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health disorders.
5. Higher Energy Levels
More sleep, regular eating habits, and a higher metabolism mean higher energy levels. The biggest cause of this is a natural increase in endorphins, a feel-good hormone your body releases to relieve soreness and increase energy.
Endorphins don’t last forever but are a great organic motivator to get your workout on. Feeling better about your mental health gets more manageable the more you move.
Full-body workouts are a great producer of endorphins, but if you find yourself struggling to reach that level of cardio, don’t fret. Even a few minutes of movement a day makes a world of difference for your mental health.
If you find yourself yet to reach the higher energy levels brought on by endorphins, or if your metabolic rate has yet to increase, consider a B12 shot to boost your energy. Of course, make sure you consult your doctor first. B12 is naturally produced by our bodies but is affected by diet, age, and other factors.
6. Elevates Positive Neurochemicals
In addition to increased release of feel-good hormones like endorphins, exercises that boost mood increase release of neurochemicals. These chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, are natural regulators of your mood.
These produce feelings of happiness and euphoria. Some medications for anxiety and depression inhibit or alter the flow of these neurochemicals in your brain, based on over or underproduction of healthy amounts.
Although medication is a necessity for some, dosage and amount of medication may vary if you exercise more. Your mental health may stabilize if you take better care of your body with exercise, potentially reducing the severity of any natural chemical imbalances you experience.
7. Grows Self-esteem and Self-Confidence
The more energy you have from exercises that boost your mood and the more positive brain chemicals released, the better you will begin to feel about yourself as a person. Self-esteem highly impacts your mental health.
If you have low self-esteem or self-confidence consistently, either result from or creates negative self-talk. In turn, low self-esteem worsens any symptoms of anxiety and depression. Your perception of your self will change.
You will find yourself beginning to focus on the progress you make in your options for cardio when you go from short walks or jogs to full-body workouts. Your self-esteem won’t just help your mental self-image either, but your body, too.
8. Better Body Image
No matter where your self-esteem falls currently, body image is a significant struggle for many people and often negatively affects mental health. Anxiety and depression take a toll on body image by first undercutting your self-esteem and your perception of yourself.
As you begin to sleep more, eat better, and recognize the good parts of the hard work you do to be healthier, you’ll develop a better body image, too. Yes, your self-confidence will grow, but you’ll also notice small things like your clothes fitting better or a shape you like to look at in the mirror.
9. Sharpens Focus and Concentration
Taking care of your mental health with exercise isn’t just about how you feel about yourself. It also means taking care of your brain.
Exercises that boost mood are a good start for taking care of your brain because of their effect on brain cells and chemicals. Running makes new brain cells, which means a lot of great things for your concentration and focus.
You’ll notice yourself more alert and able to concentrate on tasks that anxiety and depression impeded before. You’ll also see that you’re able to appreciate your exercises more and complete more challenging ones as your concentration sharpens.
Sharper focus means getting more work done, in whatever area of your life, which is one of the many ways to reduce stress. Less stress means less of a toll on your mental health and body.
10. Stronger Memory and Cognition
The more you exercise, the better your memory will be. With all of the new brain cells at your use, you’ll have a stronger memory. That means a fuller recall of events your anxiety and depression may have distorted.
Not only that, but a stronger memory means you can learn more. Your mental health will improve with a stronger ability to think. Greater cognition means that any therapy you receive could potentially be more effective.
Start Small and Be Patient With Your Mental Health
Although all of these results for your mental health are results you want immediately, you have to take your time.
There are plenty of obstacles to overcoming anxiety and depression, especially if your symptoms are severe. Don’t set yourself up for failure and pain by doing too much too fast.
Instead, focus on activities you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to reward yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, either. Turn to your friends or consider natural supplements to boost your energy before you get going on intense workouts.
Be sure to turn to our other posts for more helpful information on the ways that exercise can benefit you in every aspect of your life. Check out our site today.