5 Ways That Physical Activity Can Improve Your Mental Health

Updated on September 20, 2021

Do you know that physical activity can improve your mental health?

Physical activity has been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression, decrease stress, increase self-esteem and self-confidence, better sleep, and sharpen memory and thinking.

Almost all prevention and treatment guidelines, prescribed by doctors themselves, mention exercise as a therapy. Despite this, most patients never hear their doctor mention it. In addition, fewer than one in four Canadians fulfil current physical activity guidelines, which indicate that adults engage in moderate (such as brisk walking) and vigorous (such as jogging, swimming, or running) physical activity at least once a week. 

If you are looking for ways to manage your mental health through physical activity then this article will provide the information you need.

In this blog post, we will discuss 5 ways that exercise benefits your mental health so you can feel happier and healthier!

5 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

1) Reduces Anxiety and Depression

How does exercise reduce anxiety and depression?

Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins which are neurotransmitters that create a feeling of happiness.

Endorphins can be found in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body including muscles! When endorphins are released into your body, they can reduce anxiety while improving your mood.

Another study found that aerobic exercise like walking, running, biking, and swimming reduced depression symptoms in older adults who were diagnosed with clinical depression.

Exercise also increases serotonin production which is another neurotransmitter that has benefits for your mood and brain function.

Yes, aerobic exercise benefits mental health because it stimulates the production of neurotransmitters!

How exercise benefits children?

A study found that aerobic exercise benefits children with ADHD by improving their quality of life and reducing symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Physical activity benefits children’s mental health by improving their self-esteem, emotional well-being, and behavior.

2) Decreases Stress

Have you ever felt how your body feels when you’re under stress?

When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol which is known as the “stress hormone”.

As a result, your muscles may be tense, notably in your face, neck, and shoulders, causing back or neck pain or excruciating headaches. You may also experience tightness in your chest and a rapid pulse.

How Does Exercise Decrease Your Stress?

Physical activity benefits mental health through stress reduction by increasing your production of endorphins, the “feel-good” neurotransmitters that can diminish feelings of stress.

Exercise benefits children’s mental health in similar ways. It decreases the levels of cortisol which is known as the “stress hormone” because high levels have been linked to anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

Endorphins are responsible for that “feel-good” feeling after you finish exercising. Endorphins reduce stress, cause feelings of pleasure and act as natural painkillers.

Physical activity benefits children’s mental health by decreasing their levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone” because high levels have been linked to anxiety, depression and sleep problems.

Physical exercise also helps to relax muscles and release tension in the body, which is why it is so beneficial. Because your body and mind are so intimately linked, when your physical health improves, so will your mental state.

3. Increased self-esteem and self-confidence

Exercise can help you feel better. You might want to exercise for a slimmer body or to be able to climb hills. Or maybe you want more self-esteem and the confidence that comes with it. Exercising can make all of these things happen for you!

Regular exercise is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. It may help you feel attractive and powerful if it becomes a habit. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by achieving modest fitness goals, you’ll experience a sense of achievement.

4. Better sleep

Sleep is a huge part of our mental health, and exercise benefits the body in ways that improve overall sleep quality.

There are 3 ways that Exercise Can help you get better sleep

1) Exercise causes changes in your core body temperature. 

When you exercise, your body temperature rises, and it subsequently dips after you stop. The drop in temperature is comparable to a mild decrease in body temperature that occurs just before you fall asleep when your body prepares itself for rest. This similarity between the two adjustments might encourage your brain to think about going to sleep.

2) Exercise relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Anxiety and depression are frequently associated with insomnia. These symptoms — such as anxious thoughts, worry, and stress — might affect one’s ability to fall asleep. Endorphins are released during exercise, which positively affects sleep quality by reducing these symptoms.

3) Exercise may realign your internal body clock. 

Some people are unable to fall asleep due to a disturbed internal body clock. A disruption of one’s circadian rhythms might cause them to become tired later at night than they would otherwise feel.

Depending on the time of day they exercise, it may help reset their body clock and aid in falling asleep sooner. Running, for example, boosts serotonin, a hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle, which might improve the brain’s ability to process this important chemical and regulate sleep.

Sleep experts, however, recommend that you avoid exercising close to bedtime because it could have the opposite effect and keep you awake.

5. Sharper memory and thinking

Exercise can also benefit memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep, reducing tension and anxiety, and enhancing the restorative processes of sleep. Cognitive impairment is frequently caused or exacerbated by issues in these areas.

Physical activity benefits your memory as you age too because it reduces the risk of cognitive decline which is a natural part of aging. The benefits of exercise for brain function are not limited to older adults.

Scientists have found that aerobic fitness in childhood is associated with better academic performance and cognitive skills, including memory.

Exercising improves brain power in a variety of ways, from increasing memory to boosting intelligence. Cardiovascular exercise has been linked to the creation of new brain cells—neurogenesis—and enhanced overall brain function in people.

Regular exercise is also beneficial to your brain function and memory. It has been proven in research to improve creativity and mental alertness. The hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, gets stronger as a result of regular exercise. If you need ideas, perhaps just a stroll or jogging will do the trick.

Tips To Get Started

Even when you know that exercise will help you feel better, taking that first step is still easier said than done. Obstacles to exercising are very real—particularly when you’re also struggling with a mental health issue.

You don’t have to spend hours at the gym or push yourself through long, dull workouts in order to reap the numerous advantages of exercise.

Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise the more energy you will have so eventually you will feel ready for a little bit more.

The secret is to make a conscious decision to exercise on most days. The most important thing is to pledge to do some moderate physical activity

Start small and work your way up to bigger benefits for both body and mind. Make exercise a pleasurable part of your day. Concentrate on things you like to do. Any activity that gets you active is valuable.

These ideas can assist you in discovering things you like and beginning to feel better, look better, and get more out of life.

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