Benefits of Exercise For Mental Health

Exercise and mental health are more linked than you might think. Read on to learn how to improve your mental health.

Article Contents

What is Mental Health?

Mental health is the overall health of the mind. This includes our emotional wellbeing, as well as our social health.

Mental Health and Wellness

Mental health often dictates how we think, feel, and even interact with those around us. Just like physical health, it’s important to take care of mental health in order to support our overall wellbeing and connection with the world around us. 

However, just because mental health focuses on our mental state doesn’t mean that we can’t do other things to help improve it. This includes getting enough exercise in, as physical activity can make a huge difference in the state of one’s mental health.

Why Does Exercising Help Our Mental Health?

During exercise, the body releases what is known as endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel good” chemicals that interact in the brain to help reduce pain and increase positive emotions to make us feel better.1 

While this isn’t a cure for many mental health problems, it can be helpful in improving mental health and treating the symptoms of certain mental disorders, as well as improving our overall quality of life.2

Exercising and Mindfulness

The mental health benefits of exercise don’t only come from endorphins, however. Whether it’s time at the gym or walking through the neighborhood, exercise provides a moment to build mindfulness and relax. This meditative process can help decrease stress and cultivate a better understanding of your emotions and thoughts. 

Taking advantage of the mental boost from exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. Scientists estimate that around 90 minutes of walking each week can help improve mental health.3

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

While poor mental health doesn’t necessarily correlate with a mental disorder, it can be a factor. For many common mental disorders, physical exercise can help mitigate some of the symptoms and make it easier for people to cope. 

Depression

Exercise has long been studied in conjunction with depression. While it may not cure depression itself, it can help manage many of the symptoms of depression, like lethargy and mood.4

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the United States. Regular exercise can help balance brain chemicals and boost those capable of producing positive feelings and emotions. It can also build confidence and help with overall mood as well, which can help with anxiety symptoms.5

Exercise And Mental Health

Stress

Exercise, specifically walking, has been used as a meditation practice for hundreds of years. As a result, it can be instrumental in managing and reducing stress.

Also, since stress tends to place additional strain on the heart and cardiovascular system, exercise can be beneficial in helping to mitigate those strains on the body.

ADHD

One of the contributing factors to ADHD and its symptoms is a lack of dopamine. Not only does exercise increase endorphins, but it can also increase dopamine, helping regulate and reduce the severity of symptoms of ADHD.

PTSD and Trauma

Exercise can be a good way to reconnect with yourself and cultivate mindfulness and awareness. It can also help manage the symptoms of PTSD and trauma, such as anxiety and depression.

Overcoming Obstacles to Exercising

When dealing with poor mental health or mental disorders, it can be difficult to find the motivation to start exercising. Accessibility may also pose an obstacle for many people, preventing them from beginning to use exercise as a form of mental medicine. However, there are ways to overcome these obstacles and restore and maintain your mental health.

Getting Started When You Have a Mental Health Disorder

Even without a mental health issue, getting started with exercise isn’t easy for many people. It’s important to start small and improve every day rather than trying to jump directly into a strict regime.

Before you approach the idea of taking time out of your day to dedicate it to exercise, focus on adding more physical activity where you can. This can include taking the stairs over the elevator, or walking whenever possible. Starting off small and slowly increasing your exercise level can be a great way to ease yourself into healthy practices.

Exercises That Don’t Involve the Gym

Getting enough daily exercise doesn’t haven’t to be inaccessible. While a gym can be a good way to access equipment and workout plans at a lower investment, you can receive mind-healthy fitness in many other ways.

As mentioned above, one of the easiest ways to move more is to replace steps in your routine. If you typically take the elevator to the second floor each morning, try taking the stairs. Or, if you live in an area where it is both safe and possible, you can try walking to your nearby favorite spots instead of driving for an activity that is both healthy for your mind and the environment.

More Moving Is Not Necessarily Better

While increasing your daily activity levels is a great way to approach mental health, too much of any good thing may not be so good. It is possible to over exercise and risk overexerting your body, increasing the risk of physical injury as well as the development of different activity-centered mental health issues.

How Much is Enough?

There are dozens of studies describing the golden ratio for exercise. However, what is most important is to listen to your intuition and your body. While it’s normal to feel an increase in fatigue after exercise, you don’t want to be exhausted. Soreness may also be normal, especially if you’re just beginning your exercise journey, but pain may need to be discussed with a professional.

The perfect amount of exercise is the amount at which you receive its mental health benefits without causing distress for your mind and body.

How We Can Help

Here at Iris Healing, our focus is geared on providing holistic methods of treatment for some of the most common mental disorders. Based in California, our treatments take advantage of the sunny and warm climate and encourage our patients to incorporate nature into their treatment regime. 

We have many ways to help you incorporate more exercise into your daily routine in order to help with the symptoms of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and ADHD. 

The benefits of exercise on mental health are varied, but starting off small can help. Walking around the block a few times can greatly help our overall physical and mental health.

Contact Us

To learn more about the mental health care services we offer or to learn about enrolling in one of our treatment programs, contact us today. We are here to help and support you and your loved ones every step of the way.

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