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How Mental Health Can Be Improved With Exercise
When we think about exercise, we do not automatically think of the benefits it can have on our brains. Exercise typically makes our bodies leaner and fitter, but it is also apparent that regular exercise goes hand in hand with good mental health. Exercise can also help with a wide range of issues including stress, anxiety, and moderate depression. This link explains the relation between exercise and mental health https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise
The biggest benefit that physical exercise offers for mental health is the release of the feel-good brain chemicals like endorphin. These endorphins can relieve the feeling od pain and stress in the mind and give a feeling of enjoyment during physical activity. Endorphins are one of the may neurotransmitters in our brains that determine how we feel and think in certain situations. When we have these released during exercise, they can help us improve our general mood. This improvement in mood is why exercise can be used for a treatment for a variety of mental health issues. Further advice on using exercise to treat depression can be found here https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/exercise-for-depression/
Training the brain
Exercise not only encourages the brain to release helpful positive chemicals but, it can increase the size of the part of the brain responsible for memory. Exercise also helps us to develop more connections between nerve cells in the brain which help us protect our minds from injury and mental illness.
Natural energy source
While starting an exercise routine can feel energy-sapping, over time exercise becomes a natural way to improve energy levels. This fights against the draining effects that mental health problems can cause and motivates us to get out of bed and embrace the day.
Sometimes feelings of low mood can be caused by persistent aches and pains in our muscles, bones, and other areas of the body. Aerobic like yoga or Pilates can ease the tension in these areas and decrease any discomfort, making it a great type of exercise for mental health.
Exercise and achievement
Exercise is great for giving us goals to aim for, to one day turn that kilometre-long jog into a mile-long one. Pushing for an achieving those goals gives us feelings of accomplishment and self-worth, which in turn makes us feel happier about our lives in general.
There are many types of exercise, most of which encourage you to interact with those around you. Getting involved in a team sport or gym class can be a great way to overcome the isolation that can come with depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties, and connect with people with shared interests.
A welcome distraction
Sitting too long with our thoughts can hurt our mental wellbeing. Exercise allows you to break any negative thought patterns that feed your low mood, giving you something else to focus on as an effective, beneficial coping mechanism.
If this all sounds daunting, the important thing to keep in mind is that any exercise is a positive step forward for your mind and body. Even if at first this is as straightforward as a 15-minute walk around your area, these small steps can make a substantial difference to your overall mood.
Start small and build up your relationship with exercise and mental health over time. Choose an activity that you are a fan of or enjoyed in the past to get you started, and create a simple, easy-to-follow exercise plan that gets you more active every day without draining your motivation straight away. Further advice on exercise can be accessed from this link-https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits
If symptoms are affecting your day to day life or work life adversely Staywell can help with support and assessment.
By Christina Sara, RGN, Staywell Clinical Lead.