5 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
I have started regularly exercising around 4 years ago when I noticed that my lifestyle had a negative effect on my health. At first, I have been going to high intensity group fitness classes and running in the fresh air a couple of times a week. Few years later, I started working with a personal trainer Dave who taught me weight training at the gym. Currently, I do online fitness classes organised by My Zone team and body weight exercises at home since we are in lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic. I am also enjoying weekly Latin dance classes that can be a good workout and so much fun at the same time. Active lifestyle has a positive effect not only to my physical body but also to my mental health. While the physical health benefits of exercise are frequently discussed, the mental health benefits are often overlooked. In this blog post, I will talk about 5 science-based, psychological benefits of exercise.
What are the mental health benefits of regular exercise?
Regular exercise helps ease anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being. According to a study, regular exercise not only maintains positive mental health in psychologically healthy individuals but also it provides therapeutic benefits in clinically anxious patients. Quick 20-30min home workout or a run is a great way to make you feel less anxious and worried – works wonders for me!
Exercise can help you lose weight, tone your body, and maintain a healthy glow. Regular body movement can be a great option to elevate self-esteem. Most of us have experienced low self-esteem at one point or another in our lives. The number of people experiencing negative self-talk, comparing yourself to others, and focusing on the negatives or mistakes in life, is higher now than ever before. There are many ways exercise increases our evaluations of our self. Exercise enhances our mood and puts our mind in a more positive state. It makes us feel good about our physical self and provides us with a sense of accomplishment that boosts our confidence.
Regular exercise can be very useful for people with mild to moderate depression. According to a study published by JAMA Psychiatry, it may be possible to outrun depression:
"We saw a 26% decrease in odds for becoming depressed for each major increase in objectively measured physical activity. This increase in physical activity is what you might see on your activity tracker if you replaced 15 minutes of sitting with 15 minutes of running, or one hour of sitting with one hour of moderate activity like brisk walking."
Therefore, if you experience first signs of depression, exercise can be an all-natural treatment to fight it.
Decreases Stress Hormones
Exercise decreases stress hormones, such as cortisol. Regular exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. When your stress hormones aren’t neutralized by other hormones like endorphins, they’ll suppress the production of other hormones necessary for your health. If your body continuously produces stress hormones and is unable to release its inner tension through movement, it will go into a permanent state of alarm which can cause concentration difficulties, sleep disorders, or digestive problems.
Exercise can be a great way to lift your mood. According to a study, when you engage in high-intensity exercise, your body and brain produce hormones and neurotransmitters that have a positive impact on your mood, memory and energy levels. When you exercise, your body often feels more relaxed and calm and stress in your muscles and your mind is reduced resulting in better mood throughout the day.
Research has very clearly shown a strong link between positive self-esteem and mental health. It can be difficult to get motivation to exercise at home during lockdown, but I promise that once you make it a habit, you will be looking forward to your next workout!
My favourite items for a great home workout:
I am the biggest fan of Les Mills fitness classes and this step can be used for numerous reasons. My favourite exercise using Les Mills step is kettlebell step up where I hold a kettlebell in one hand and initiate exercise by stepping on to the riser with one leg, drive the front foot and extend the knee to stand up fully. I then slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat it on each leg at least 10 times. The kettlebell step up challenges the muscles of quads and builds balanced strength.
I have bought this set of resistance bands when we first got into lockdown back in March in 2020. Since then, I was able to use them for different set of exercises for my arms, glutes and legs.
I have tried many different brands when choosing the right training shoes, but Nike trainers are my favourite by far! They are great for running as well as home workouts. For me, comfortable shoes are vital for a good workout, so I feel it is always worth investing in a better quality pair of trainers.
I absolutely love my yoga mat and I don’t even do yoga! This mat is perfect for home workouts especially for core exercises, planks, push ups and stretches.
When gyms got closed in Edinburgh back in December, I was really missing weight training. Luckily, I do have a kettlebell at home. My home workout exercises usually include kettlebell swings and goblet squats.
I hope you enjoyed my article about mental health benefits of exercise. I would love to hear from you what exercise means to you and how it makes you feel both physically and mentally. Sending you lots of love from Edinburgh, Scotland.
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