Exercise is important not only for your physical health, but also for your mental health and wellbeing. Exercise has many benefits, stimulating the release of numerous different chemicals that can help improve your mood. It can also help to improve memory and focus, increasing connections between the nerve cells in your brain, which can also protect it from disease.
Exercise can help to provide numerous different benefits for the mind, stimulating the release of endorphins that help to both improve your mood and your ability to concentrate. It can help people to get a better night’s sleep, make you feel more energised, and even strengthen both emotional and physical resistance (i.e. relapsing and immunity).
When faced with mental illness, many people resort to unhealthy coping methods, such as drugs and alcohol. Exercising can help those suffering with their mental health to cope with their struggles in a healthy, and more productive way. It can help to alleviate the suffering associated with such mental aliments as anxiety and depression, whilst also helping to improve your body’s physical health.
Exercise to Reduce Anxiety
Exercise is known to effectively alleviate feelings of anxiety. It helps to relieve tension and release endorphins which can enhance your mood.
Anxiety is something that many people suffer from at some point in their lives. It can reduce a person’s ability to focus, cause difficulties sleeping, and ultimately lead to low wellbeing and quality of life. Exercise can help to alleviate these symptoms, helping to promote a regular sleeping pattern and subsequently help to reduce sleep deprivation.
By exercising regularly, people can help to alleviate anxiety, not only through the release of endorphins and relieving of tension, but also through practising mindfulness. By paying attention to your body during exercise, the feeling of your feet as they hit the ground, your breath, and the movement of your arms and legs, you can interrupt the thoughts that may be contributing to the anxiety, and bring yourself into the present moment.
By practising mindfulness in this way, those suffering from anxiety can help to alleviate their suffering, giving them a break from their negative thoughts, and focusing peacefully on the here and now.
Exercise to Reduce Depression
For those suffering with depression, incorporating regular exercise into the daily routine may help to reduce this. Exercising can promote multiple different healthy changes throughout the brain, some of the main ones including the following:
- Reducing inflammation
- Promoting neural growth
- Releasing endorphins
- Releasing serotonin
These changes can help to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those suffering from depression, boosting mood and energising the mind.
As with anxiety sufferers, those with depression may also benefit from practising mindfulness when exercising. Focusing on the breath, the pace of your steps and your body’s movement during exercise can give you a break from the negative thoughts circulating in the mind, and bring you into the present, rhythmical, and often peaceful moment.
Physical Benefits of Exercise
The physical benefits of exercise also have an impact on mental health and overall wellbeing, not just in potentially improving your self-image, but also in reducing the risk, and thereby the stress and anxiety, that can be associated with physical and mental illness. Exercise can help people who have suffered from a stroke to recover, helping them to improve their movement and abilities whilst also helping to reduce the mental anguish associated with this.
Exercise can reduce the risk of various different illnesses, such as the following:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- High blood pressure
It helps to strengthen the body, both mentally and physically, which can make it more resilient and reduce the risk of both mental and physical illnesses from arising. In order to see the full benefits of exercise, it’s important to do it regularly, maintaining the body’s health and promoting sustained overall wellbeing.
How Much Exercise Is Needed?
The NHS has set out a guide on the amount of exercise people should do a day, based on their age. For those between the ages of 19 to 64, the NHS recommends that physical activity should be done every day, strengthening activities (working the major muscles) at least twice a week, and 150 minutes of “moderate intensity activity” (or 75 minutes of “vigorous intensity activity”) every week.
It’s important not to push yourself too far with exercise, as you may end up hurting yourself. Introducing exercise safely into your daily routine can ensure your enjoyment of it, and make you more likely to stick with it in the long run.