It’s no secret that regular exercise is good for your body. But many people don’t realize that it’s also good for your mental health.
Studies show that even moderate exercise can improve depression and anxiety symptoms. But how does it work? And how can you stay motivated to get moving?
The benefits of daily exercise are well documented – stronger muscles, better weight management and improved sleep are just a few. But, more and more research is showing that exercise does more than improve your physical health; it can also boost your mental wellbeing.
The link between exercise and mood is complex. Sports psychology professor Arnold LeUnes points to four theories that seek to explain this positive correlation: The distraction hypothesis, the endorphin hypothesis, the monoamine hypothesis and the thermogenic hypothesis.
All these theories suggest that while exercise is not a cure for depression, it does help reduce symptoms and may even prevent relapse. Some experts believe that it alleviates depression by boosting serotonin, the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants; by normalizing sleep patterns; and by stimulating brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
It is also thought that exercise improves mood by providing a sense of accomplishment and providing a focus to help individuals overcome distress. Some researchers have even suggested that exercise helps to control cravings for things like food and alcohol because it can distract from negative emotions.
In order to make the most of the mood-boosting effects of exercise, it is recommended that you find a workout routine that you enjoy and can stick with over the long term. This could include a mix of cardio exercises such as running, cycling or swimming and strength training exercises such as lifting weights or bodyweight exercises.
It is well-known that exercise benefits your heart and your muscles, but it also can improve your mood and alleviate depression and anxiety. Although experts do not fully understand how it does so, researchers believe that exercise may boost resilience and give people a needed break from their stressors, boosting their moods.
Some research suggests that exercise may improve your ability to cope with life’s challenges by helping you learn positive coping strategies, and by giving you a sense of accomplishment from meeting your goals. Exercise can also provide a social outlet, such as joining an exercise class or walking with friends.
Getting regular daily exercise is important for maintaining mental health, but it can be difficult to get started and stay motivated. If you are having trouble, seek support from a qualified health professional who can help you develop realistic exercise goals and plan ways to reach them. It is also important to find activities you enjoy, as your motivation to participate in exercise will likely decline if you are not enjoying it.
Medications can treat depression and anxiety, but they often have unpleasant side effects. Talk therapy is helpful, but it can be time-consuming and costly. Exercise is one of the safest, least disruptive and cheapest options for treating mental disorders. It can even ward off problems such as anxiety and depression before they start.
If you have low self-esteem, daily exercise can boost your confidence and make you feel good about yourself. This feeling becomes even stronger as you continue to stick with your workout regimen, hit personal bests, perfect your form or master a challenging activity like dance or kickboxing.
This sense of achievement will help you develop a healthy attitude towards life and appreciate your strengths and weaknesses. When you follow a regular exercise regime, your concentration will shift away from day to day problems and stress towards your workout session and this will improve your overall mood and increase your self-esteem.
Moreover, if you’re exercising with friends or joining a group fitness class, the social interaction and camaraderie can also enhance your mental health by improving your mood and lifting your spirits. This is because people who enjoy exercising with others often feel more positive about the experience and feel motivated to keep up their workouts.
In fact, a number of clinical trials have found that aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or jogging, is an effective treatment for depression. These studies have even found that it can be as effective as antidepressant medication. In other words, it’s one of the cheapest and most effective ways to feel better about yourself. But, you should still consult with a doctor before starting an exercise program if you have a mental health condition like depression or anxiety.
Increases social interaction
While it’s well-known that exercise buffs up the body, researchers are discovering that it also boosts and maintains mental health. Depression and anxiety are common ailments that affect people around the world. These disorders are difficult to treat with medications that may have nasty side effects, or talk therapy that’s time-consuming and expensive.
The most effective way to combat them, however, is exercise. Researchers are noticing that it can reduce and even prevent mental illness from developing in the first place, especially when combined with a regular, healthy diet.
For many people, the motivation to stay active is not just about trimming the waistline, improving their sex life or adding years to their lives. Instead, it’s the positive feelings they get when they finish a workout that keep them going. They’re energized throughout the day, sleep better at night and feel more relaxed.
Getting the most out of this mental health benefit means making exercise a social activity. Joining a gym, a group class or even just taking a walk with friends can be great ways to meet people and make new connections. Having someone to motivate you to stick with your workouts can be a big help in keeping you on track. It can also be helpful to enlist the help of a mental health professional who can help you develop an exercise program and physical activity routine that’s right for you.