Exercising regularly has a variety of health benefits. It’s natural for people to focus on the physical benefits of exercise. Still, there are several mental health benefits to consider as well.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines mental health as “the ability to operate well in productive everyday activities such as work or school, creating and maintaining good relationships, and demonstrating the capability to be resilient to change and deal with adversities.”
Regular physical activity can help improve mental health in various ways, including mood, sleep, mindset, self-esteem, and confidence, as well as contributing to more adaptive thinking.
Movement is essential for well-being. The four key health benefits of exercise are listed below.
EXERCISE HAS 4 MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
1. Stress reduction
2. Self-efficacy and confidence increase
3. Improvement in sleep quality
4. A chance to practice presence and embodiment
#1 STRESS REDUCTION
Exercise is well-known for helping people cope with daily stress and build overall resilience as they seek to overcome more significant stressors. One reason for this is that exercise increases endorphin or feel-good neurotransmitters.
Another reason that exercise can help you relax is that it allows you to focus your attention away from the stressor and the physical activity you’re doing. This adjustment in focus aids separation from the stressor. Furthermore, taking a break from the stressor to exercise can frequently bring a fresh perspective on dealing with the situation.
#2 SELF-EFFICACY AND CONFIDENCE INCREASE
You can boost self-efficacy if a person exercises regularly and sees themselves achieving this behavioral objective regularly. This enhances confidence in their ability to change their behavior or accomplish a goal in other aspects of their lives. This increased self-efficacy can help with self-esteem, confidence, and feeling more empowered in other areas of life.
#3 IMPROVEMENT IN SLEEP QUALITY
Even light aerobic activity will improve sleep quality. It may even aid in the development of more restful sleep. Better sleep can significantly impact mood, energy, memory consolidation, and other factors. The first point about stress reduction is why sleep quality improves due to exercise.
The ability to fall asleep and maintain sleep can be hampered by stress (ability to stay asleep). Another reason why exercise improves sleep quality is that it allows people to reconnect with their bodies and reduces the amount of time they spend in an active, thinking mind, which can disrupt the body’s normal sleep cycle.
#4 A CHANCE TO PRACTICE PRESENCE AND EMBODIMENT
Exercise can help individuals connect more and be more aware of their own body, referred to as embodiment. This change away from “dwelling” in the head and toward a greater awareness of one’s own physical body and the physical sensations felt during exercise can significantly impact mental health.
When someone is experiencing rumination and anxious thoughts, they frequently think about the future or the past. Exercising to increase presence and embodiment can help you focus on the present moment and reduce ruminating.
EXERCISE CAN HELP YOU OVERCOME ANXIETY AND RUMINATION.
It is highly recommended to approach an exercise session as screen-free time to assist the success of training on anxiety and rumination. When a person takes a break from active technology usage like texting, skimming the internet, or being on social media, the mental health advantages of exercise are amplified. It is quite acceptable to listen to music.
Consider exercising with others to increase the benefits of exercise on mental health. Exercising with a buddy or coworker can improve social health, foster social support, and aid with stress and anxiety management.
EXERCISE’S IMPACT ON DEPRESSION
Exercise can help with depression in the same way that it can help with stress and worry. Exercise, as previously said, can increase mood and self-esteem and generate feel-good endorphins. These advantages are linked to a reduction in the intensity of depression. In a 2005 study, 80 people were separated into five groups, each with varying physical exercise degrees. The Hamilton scale evaluations of depression symptoms decreased in all groups regardless of exercise dosage.
Low-intensity exercise can enhance brain function over time, which can aid depression. “In people who are depressive, experts have observed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps control mood—is smaller,” says Dr. Miller, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Exercise promotes nerve cell proliferation in the hippocampus, which improves nerve cell connections and aids in depression relief.” In 2006, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of eleven studies looking at the impact of exercise on mental health. According to this study, exercise can be an effective treatment for clinical depression.
EXERCISE AND MENTAL HEALTH RESEARCH FACTS
Overall, several research studies have demonstrated an essential link between physical activity and mental health and well-being. In May 2021, the John W. Brick Foundation released a review of peer-reviewed articles published between 1990 and 2020. They discovered that “approximately 89 percent of all published peer-reviewed research report a positive relationship between exercise/physical activity and mental health.”
Cardiovascular movement and yoga were among the best types of physical activity for mental health in this study. Furthermore, a study published in 2018 stated that in 2011, 2013, & 2015 1.2 million adults completed a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. They reported 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health each month than those who did not exercise.
Going to the gym, bicycling, and aerobics were identified as the activities with the most significant reductions in this study. Although these are just a few instances, most research agrees that regular exercise positively impacts mental health and wellness.
HOW CAN I GET MORE EXERCISE?
If you want to start exercising more, here are some suggestions. To begin, remember that setting small, attainable goals three to four times per week will aid your achievement. Concentrate on frequency rather than duration. Second, select a workout that you enjoy and find enjoyable. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to deciding which exercises to include in your routine to improve mental health.
However, 20-30 minutes of modest aerobic activity several times per week is an excellent place to start. Walking, riding, jogging, and even swimming are aerobic activities. Another method is to lift weights two or three times per week. Finally, consider adopting some mind-body exercises like yoga, Pilates, or Tai-Chi, including a breathing component that can help reduce sympathetic nervous system tension.
If mind-body exercise isn’t your thing, try including relaxing yoga positions as part of a cool-down that can help the nervous system relax. Child’s pose, reclining knees to chest, legs up a wall, and supine reclining twist are some yoga poses to try. Hold each pose for five to ten breaths. It’s critical to choose workout modes that sound fun and will work best for you, taking into account any physical restrictions, environmental circumstances, etc.
To summarize, mental health is just as important as physical health. It is critical to prioritize and participate in activities that promote mental wellness, such as exercise. It is crucial to note that if more mental health help is required, individuals can seek it through programs such as counseling.