We all know that exercise is good for the body but that is not the only benefit. Physical activity is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health.
Regular exercise can have a positive impact on depression, anxiety and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better and boosts overall mood. You don’t even have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits!
Positive impact on mental health
Exercise is not just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. It can improve your physical health and trim your waistline but that is not what motivates most people to stay active. Many people who exercise regularly do so because of the sense of well-being it gives them.
Those who make time for exercise feel more energetic during the day and sleep better at night. They also feel more relaxed and are generally positive about themselves.
Exercise is a powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges. Studies show that it can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication, with the added bonus that there are no side effects. Research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
Physical activity is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain that promote feelings of calm. These changes include neural growth, reduced inflammation and new activity patterns.
Exercise releases endorphins in the brain which make you feel good. It can also serve as a distraction and provide some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
In addition to helping those with depression, exercise is a natural anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress plus it boosts physical and mental energy.
Exercise without hitting the gym
Don’t worry if you haven’t got time to go for a long run or attend yoga classes. There are loads of ways to exercise without expensive memberships or regular time commitments. Physical activity is a lifestyle rather than a single task to tick off a list.
If you are at home blitz the housework, sweep the patio or mow the lawn. Get out in the garden and tackle the pruning or start a project. You will improve your mood as well as the appearance of your surroundings.
During the working day bike or walk to appointments that are close by instead of driving. If you use public transport walk briskly to the bus stop and get off one stop early. Just using staircases instead of lifts can make a difference.
Get the kids and pets involved too. Take the dog for a walk in a new place, do the school run on foot if you have the option or make use of the outdoor fitness equipment available in many parks. Look at your daily routine and you will be surprised how many ways you can find to get active.
Studies show that even modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, exercise can make you feel better!