Whether we’re seasoned athletes or have never stepped foot on a running track, pretty much everybody knows the physical benefits of exercise on the body. What’s far less commonly discussed, however, is the wealth of benefits of exercise on mental health.
The positive effects of exercise on the brain are varied, powerful, and proven. Were you aware, for example, that exercise can help improve not only your mood and sleep quality, but it can boost your libido, alleviate depression and soothe anxiety? And that’s only the tip of the iceberg!
What are the mental health benefits of exercise?
Alongside looking physically healthier and feeling better in their own bodies, people who get regular exercise often experience deeper, more restorative sleep, as well as higher energy levels on average and a clearer head. Common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and ADHD are helped by exercise too—and it doesn’t take huge amounts! Even moderate amounts of regular exercise can have a major impact.
Now, let’s take a look at how exercise can impact various mental health problems in a little more detail…
The impact of exercise on anxiety
Extensive research has found that exercise helps our bodies deal with anxiety by alleviating tension and stress, increasing our energy levels naturally, and stimulating the release of endorphins, which make us feel happy.
Being mindful while exercising can increase these positive effects, grounding us in the present.
Exercising in this way—focussing on the precision of your movements and the way your body is responding—can help move us away from negative thought patterns.
Exercise as an antidepressant
Mild to moderate depression has been proven to be eased—or resolved completely—by exercise. Even better, unlike some depression medication, exercise comes without any side-effects… except perhaps for a six pack and a healthy glow. You don’t need to do vast amounts of work, either.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently found that even a fifteen minute jog (or an hour walking) can reduce symptoms of depression by as much as 26%.
There are several reasons exercise is so great at treating depression. For starters, it promotes neural growth in the brain, along with new patterns of activity that have been linked with calm and contentness. It reduces inflammation too, plus it releases those lovely endorphins.
De-stressing with exercise
The benefits of working out extend to stress, too. Stress is a nightmare for our bodies: we tense up, we get headaches, we experience chest pains and a pounding heart, insomnia, and any number of other unpleasant symptoms on top of these. Stress tends to compound itself; the symptoms of stress lead to further worry which leads to more symptoms.
Exercise breaks this cycle. As well as feeling better from the endorphins released, exercise works our muscles, which can help with cramps, strains and tension resulting from stress.
Treating ADHD with exercise
Being active physically causes an instant boost to your brain’s serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels, which alongside making us feel happy and content, helps us to focus and keep our attention fixed on one task. Many medications for ADHD such as Adderall and Ritalin work in a similar manner to reduce symptoms of ADHD.
Exercise to ease PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterised by immobilizing stress responses; your body becomes ‘stuck’ and your nervous system begins to seize up. Exercising can allay this by creating physical sensations for your body to concentrate on, grounding you. The best workouts for easing PTSD are ones that work your whole body, using both arms and legs. Think swimming, running, and dance classes!
How to overcome things blocking you from exercising
To reap the full mental benefits of exercise, you need to be prepared to overcome obstacles in your way. These include:
Often the last thing we want to do when we’re down is exercise. However, regular exercise has been proven to reduce fatigue by remarkable amounts. If you can motivate yourself to get up and out there, rest assured, within only a few minutes you’ll begin to feel your sluggishness slipping away.
Feeling hopeless is a key symptom of depression. When you’re feeling this way, it can be difficult to muster the motivation to get up off the couch or out of bed. To get around this, start small—so small you can’t possibly talk yourself out of it. Do one press up, or walk for one minute. The next time, do two. Do a little, do it often, and build up.
– Feeling overwhelmed
If you’re stressed out and anxious, finding the time to exercise can initially add fuel to the fire. It may seem impractical, or yet another tedious thing on your to-do list. You can change this mindset to a healthier one if you plan exercise into your daily routine, however.
Shuffle things around to make a daily slot where exercise fits into, and make it a priority. You may well find that, once you’re exercising regularly, everything else seems a little bit easier.
Getting regular exercise is absolutely fantastic for your mental health. Beyond the above issues, it can also help improve your self-image, your confidence, and your drive.
Living with a body that feels alive and full of energy is motivating in itself, and looking your best can give you the confidence boost needed to begin to excel in other areas of your life too.
Ready to look and feel amazing?
If you’re setting out on a new exercise journey for your mental and physical health, you may want a helping hand to support you in achieving your goals. Zotrim is here to help!
Our totally natural and effective formula helps reduce food cravings, enabling you to stick to your diet plan more easily.
Combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, with Zotrim you’ll be on your way to the best shape of your life—inside and out!