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How Physical Activity and Exercise Promote Mental Health

Exercise to Promote Mental Health

If you feel as though you’re not sure of how to achieve better mental health, then you’re not alone. We hear all the time that there is a very real body-mind connection, yet we tend to ignore that piece of information.

The Impact of Exercise on Mental Health

Though we may focus wholeheartedly on improving our physical health, we tend to place little emphasis on our mental or emotional health. The truth is, though, that when you are working on improving your physical health, you are also working to improve your mental health at the same time. So, if you want to be in a much better place altogether, it starts with physical activity.

When you are exercising, you can feel almost immediately that you are breathing better, standing taller, and just generally feel healthier. This is where the mind-body connection enters the picture: your mental health is also improving as you exercise your body. You get a nice release of feel-good hormones called endorphins. This is not your imagination; when you are working out, you really do feel better. You can take on the world because that physical activity gives you this very necessary hormone boost. It all flows together effectively, for your physical self is improving, and your brain appreciates this. You have more energy and better focus as everything comes together in harmony.

Mind and Body Working Together

Your ability to handle stress more effectively after a good workout is also telling. This is all due to better mental health, which comes about when you exercise or experience physical activity. You will find that your exercise becomes your stress relief in the end. This is due to the fact that you can put everything out of your mind and really concentrate on the task at hand when you exercise. You become so focused on your movement and performance that you can tune out the stress and distance yourself from sources of anxiety. You come out of a good workout feeling refreshed, and this is due to improving your mental and emotional health through exercise.

If you want to be your best, then improving your mental health will be an important part of the equation. You need to be mindful of the mind-body connection and realize that they complement each other. Each of these two factors matters as much as the next, so you want to be sure that you have the energy and dedication necessary to improve your overall health. Exercise is an excellent way to relieve stress, to work through any emotional issues, and to give you the best mental health that you can possibly achieve. This will all benefit you well into the long term.

Overcoming Illness Symptoms

A large and growing body of research shows that exercise and mental health are linked, but that physical activity is also important for minimizing or overcoming symptoms of mental illness.  Strong research supports the use of regular exercise as a component of the treatment of illnesses such as depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Many doctors, psychiatrists and counselors/therapists will often recommend increasing physical activity levels in order to help overcome the symptoms of the conditions.  It is exceptionally commonplace for mental illness patients to find that their symptoms are reduced when they keep up their workouts on a regular basis.  Thought physical activity is not viewed as a cure for these conditions, it is seen as a powerful component to a healthy treatment strategy.

In fact, some experts recommend getting up and doing an intense activity for five minutes every hour or so to keep symptoms at bay or to tamp down those that have started to creep in again.  It is frequently used as one of several components which can include therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications, healthy diet, improved sleep habits, and other lifestyle changes.

Types of Exercise for Mental Health

There is no specific type of exercise that is best for mental health.  Instead, it is more a matter of making sure that you get active and that you do it regularly.  You can choose an activity that appeals to you to ensure you’ll enjoy it enough to have the motivation to do it.  Alternately, you may choose an activity that you don’t necessarily enjoy at the time but that does the job efficiently and that gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Many doctors recommend trying several exercises for mental health.  Often, we are surprised at what we enjoy.  It may not look fun, but it can be unexpectedly enjoyable and rewarding.  Moreover, we may feel like doing different types of activities depending on our moods, the time of the day, or where we are. Therefore, having several options available can help to ensure you’ll keep it up.

Some of the options you may want to try include:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Strength training
  • Zumba
  • Dancing
  • Skiing
  • Skating
  • Organized sports