Mental Health and Exercise
The awareness about mental well-being has grown tremendously over the past decade. This realization and awareness couldn’t have come at a more convenient time as the rates of anxiety and depression are at an all-high in various parts of the world. But better late than never. As if on cue, people are now actively seeking various ways to keep their minds healthy and working. Some do it through exercise, some go to therapy while being on medication as well like that of taking ADD medicine or some talk to someone they know, others try to sort it out with the use of drugs, and other such substances to keep themselves calm and composed.
Now although all the ways above have been shown to be useful to some degree or another, not all of them are very convenient or affordable. While a therapist might cost you huge bucks but there is one fool-proof method to always keep yourself in a fine fettle psychologically: exercise.
Be it in the form of rigorous workouts or simple yoga, physical activity has been proven to help us in the maintenance of our body and mind in many ways. It not only keeps a layman fit and healthy but also is of extreme benefit of professional sportsmen. The physical benefits of it (healthier heart, better immunity, stronger bones, leaner muscles, etc.) are well known and it is often used for all those purposes. But the benefits it offers our mind are something that is often overlooked, not necessarily intentionally. Those that exert themselves physically in one way or another on a daily basis often vouch that it helps sharpen their memories, increases their energy levels during the day, helps them sleep better at night and also significantly boosts their feelings of positivity about themselves and their lives.
Talking about sportsmen and fitness, daily exercise is a thing one cannot compomise on. Apart from palying tough games, leanring throughout from sports performances using various smart gadgtes like that of smart watch that can record fitness level of a person on daily basis and using sports glasses that may help in recording sports performance, sportsmen must not skip their gym or daily execrices practices for good.
As Marcus Tullius Cicero said: “It is exercise alone that supports the spirits and keeps the mind in vigor.”
Physical activity doesn’t necessarily mean joining the gym and subjecting yourself to a grueling routine every day, it can be something simple that suits you and you enjoy it. One of the many best things about using workouts is that they come in so many forms and are spread across such a wide range, from minimal effort and simple tasks to super complex tasks that need expert guidance. And most of them are equally beneficial so the choice isn’t very hard to make either.
But how exactly does working out affect us mentally? And is it even that effective or is the hype around it not well-deserved? If it is as good as it sounds, how can you utilize it to its utmost?
Keeping reading to get answers to all these questions and then decide for yourself whether you’ll be reaching for that bottle of pills or your running shoes.
1. Promotes levels of endorphins:
Endorphins are neurotransmitters that our body releases in response to pain or stress. They help us heal from these experiences and the effects are longer lasting than that which medication can have. Endorphins also endorse pleasurable thoughts in our heads, bettering our mood. Being in a good mood at least for a few hours a day improves how we view our lives and decreases our chances of becoming depressed in the long run. The “runners high” is attributed to the release of endorphins after prolonged sessions of vigorous physical activity.
2. Triggers serotonin release:
Serotonin is also a neurotransmitter and serves as the target for medications such as SSRIs or SNRIs, which aim at increasing the level of serotonin in our brains. Serotonin is known for sending signals to our brains for a multitude of basic body functions, including mood. A higher level of serotonin is linked to the treatment of mental health issues such as bipolarity and anxiety. Exercising is a natural way to advance the volume of this chemical in our body, without having any side effects.
3. Stimulates Dopamine release:
Dopamine is another transmitter which is found in our brain. The shortage of this transmitter has been directly linked to depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis. A lot of popular antidepressants try to target the generators of dopamine to increase its volume in the synapses. But like all other medication, that has side-effects. One of the many natural ways to encourage the release of dopamine is to work out on a daily basis.
4. Increases level of BDNF:
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a neurotrophin that is crucial to the development, protection, and survival of neurons in significant brain circuits which are involved in emotional and cognitive function. It has recently been discovered that Major Depressive Disorder greatly alters the levels of BDNF in our brain that may affect the health of our brain. It has also been proven that exercise can help prevent and correct this.
5. Sleep better with exercise:
Exercising regularly can help you to sleep better. Daily workouts have been shown to improve not only the amount of sleep you get but also the quality of it. Without proper sleep, we often find ourselves exhausted and short on energy. This leads to feeling lethargic and exasperated, which then leads to aggravated negative emotions. On the other hand, being well rested gives us more stamina to go about our day and promotes positive moods and emotions.
6. Exercise boosts self-esteem:
Regular exercise can get you in shape and have a direct effect on how you view yourself. Looking good makes us feel good which then improves our mood. Body dysmorphia has often been linked with depression in young people. So, more confidence in their looks and better self-esteem would significantly reduce the chances of them developing depression, hence improving their mental health.
7. Exercise is a distractor:
Exercise can prove as an excellent source of distraction from the daily boring routine. Not only does it allow you to break the humdrum of everyday life, but it also proves as an opportunity to escape reality and forget all your problems, at least for a little while. This, in turn, reduces the stress we get from them, which is reduced even further by the chemicals that our brain releases.
8. Allows you to form social connections:
Exercising gives you the opportunity to meet others who are engaged in similar activities. This can help you find support from those that are going through similar mental health issues as you and the journey to recovery can become a lot easier. You can listen to stories that might motivate you further so that you don’t lose hope.
Exercising is one of the many ways which can affect your mental health. There is one more interesting practice you can adopt when it comes to mental health and that is adopting a pet. Yes! You can pet any animal of your choice like a dog and look after it keenly, a sound dog care can keep your pet happy and make you stay busy as well for optimistic mental health results. However, you don’t immediately need to jump into a dreadful and demanding routine. A meager 30 minutes of exercise a day, every day, can significantly better your mental health. If 30 minutes seems too hard, you can always just divide that into shorter sessions of 10-15 minutes of moderate to intense activity.
The type of exercise you chose to indulge in doesn’t need to be excruciating either. Just pick something that you’ve enjoyed in the past and start off with that. It could be a sport or any form of physical activity that makes you sweat. Once you have built stamina in that activity, incorporate other forms of activity into your routine. Maybe even eventually join a gym or get a professional trainer to help.
It doesn’t matter if you start small and easy, as long as you don’t give up and slowly build your way up.