We know how good exercise is for your body, but it is pretty great for your mind too. Our mental well being should be viewed as our overall body health. The World Health Organization (WHO), defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” (1) This can teach people to take care of their health by exercising, getting enough sleep and eating well. As we focus on Mental Wellness Month this January, we look specifically at how exercise can impact our well being.
What can exercise do to improve your mental well being?
- It can offer preventative and therapeutic benefits. It can reduce the risk of depression and chronic pain as well as neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (4)
- It increases energy. You might be able to concentrate better, create more focus and motivation and accomplish more.
- It releases important neurotransmitters in the brain to ward off depression and anxiety. These chemicals in your brain make you feel good, feel more relaxed and boosts your self esteem. One exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Some people call this post-exercise euphoria or endorphin response. (3)
- It improves sleep. With better sleep, mood improves. Read more about sleep and exercise in a past post here.
- Less stress, anger and tension and more feelings of self worth and happiness. Exercise can help you feel less anxious.
It’s key to remember that you don’t want exercise to have the opposite effect when it comes to positive well being. For example, don’t get frustrated or down on yourself if you can’t fit in a workout some days. Look at the calendar and plan your workouts to see if you can avoid this from happening.
It’s important to figure out the best type of exercise for you and your well being. For instance, you may like to exercise alone or with a trainer, rather than in an overcrowded class. Maybe you want to make it more social and a boot camp is better for you. The goal is for the exercise not to be the cause or contributing factor to your stress!
Depression is the most studied mental health disorder in relation to exercise. Depression is different from the blues. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is most likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. (5) Common symptoms include intense feelings of sadness, loss of interest, energy and self esteem and feelings of guilt. Thoughts of death or wanting to hurt yourself is a very serious threat as well.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms so they can help. Depression is treatable and the course of treatment can include medication, counseling AND exercise.
Given the substantial mental benefits of exercise, it is strongly encouraged that you start or maintain an exercise program. Set small goals, be good to yourself and watch the benefits improve your mental in addition to your physical well-being. If you have any questions about how to get started, contact us.
- “Promoting Mental Health”. Accessed 21, December 2015. Who.org. http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/MH_Promotion_Book.pdf?ua=1
- “January is National Mental Wellness Month”. Accessed 21, December 2015. Mygutinstinct.org. http://mygutinstinct.org/january-is-national-mental-wellness-month/
- “Exercise Can Help Control Stress”. Accessed 20, December 2015. Acefitness.org. http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-fact-article/51/exercise-can-help-control-stress/
- “The Impact of Exercise on your Mental Health”. Accessed 20,December 2015. Mentalhelp.net. https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/the-impact-of-exercise-on-your-mental-health/
- “Depression”. Accessed 20, December 2015. Acefitness.org http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-fact-article/3597/depression/
- Image courtesy of smokedsalmon at freedigitalphotos.net