Maintaining your Mental Health by Exercising

Running up steps

There’s absolutely no doubt that exercising is great for the body, helping to keep your weight in check, improving cardiovascular health and blood pressure, and reducing the risk of contracting certain diseases.

Exercising is also essential for maintaining good mental health, and the effects of physical activity can have widespread wellbeing benefits.

Influencing mood

Studies have concluded that exercise can have a profound effect on the way we feel, helping to boost our mood and combat symptoms of depression. In fact, many doctors prescribe exercise to patients who suffer from low mood, and unlike taking medications, there are no negative side-effects from getting active.

Exercise makes us feel better in ourselves because it stimulates feel-good hormones in the brain. It also encourages changes to patterns in the brain that promote a sense of calm.

 

Reducing stress and anxiety

In a similar way that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression, it can also help to reduce stress, anxiety and tension. By getting active, the muscles in your body become relaxed, and the release of endorphins in the brain can put you on a high, quashing any stress or anxiety symptoms. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, which adversely affect blood pressure, heart rate and energy levels, are reduced once you start exercising.

Crucially, when you focus on exercise, you’re living in the moment, so this mindfulness approach means there’s no room for negative thoughts or worries.

 

Improved sleep

Since exercise helps us to feel calm and it can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, this can have a positive knock-on effect on the quality of our sleep.

Focus and attention

Exercise is a great way to help you concentrate as it stimulates dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin chemicals in the brain that positively influence your ability to stay focused, alert and attentive. Exercise is, therefore, a useful tonic for those suffering from ADHD. It also makes us feel more awake and energised.

 

Prevent cognitive decline

Lots of research has looked at the effects of exercise on cognitive ability, and studies reveal that those people who regularly keep fit can expect a lower risk of cognitive impairment as they get older. Exercise protects the brain, encourages new brain cell growth, improves memory and clarity of thinking, and research indicates that daily physical activity could reduce the risk of a person getting dementia by around 20-30%.

 

Improved self-esteem

Exercise has been proven to have a positive impact on the way we feel about ourselves, and if we feel good, we’re less likely to suffer from anxiety, stress or depression. Increased self-worth doesn’t just affect how we feel about our body, it can positively influence every aspect of our lives including relationships with others, resilience and confidence levels.

Experts reckon that any form of exercise can have positive effects on mental health and wellbeing, and adults should aim for around 30 minutes of exercise, five days per week.

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