Exercise and mental health are inextricably linked. Have you ever noticed how good you feel after a tough session in the gym? Or after a long walk on crisp winter’s day, or maybe after pounding the lanes at the swimming pool for an hour or so? Well this, in part, is what we’re talking about.
Studies have shown that regular physical activity can have a significant effect on our mental health. This includes increasing self-esteem, reducing anxiety and depression. It’s also been shown to help slow the onset of or reduce the chances of you contracting degenerative cognitive conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, five times a week. This really can be anything. Swimming, running, walking, playing tennis, cycling, badminton, going to the gym, whatever it is that gets you moving. It all counts!
Exercise and Mental Health: What’s the Impact?
It’s been proven that regular exercise has a positive impact on our mental health. From our overall mood, to helping with depression and anxiety and even helping to stave off cognitive conditions like dementia, exercise helps with it all! Here we’ll take a look at every aspect of our mental health and how exercise can help give it a boost.
Exercise and our Mood
Studies have shown that even short periods of exercise have a positive impact on our mood. Researchers found that, participants felt more content, alert and more calm after a period of activity, than after a period of inactivity. This same study found that the greatest positive effect that exercise had on the participant came when their mood began at a low level before beginning the workout.
Exercise and its impact on Stress
Exercise is well known to have a positive impact on both symptoms of stress and our self-esteem. It’s been proven that those people who exercise more tend to suffer less from stress than those who are less active. Stress symptoms include a loss of appetite, sweating, an increased heart rate and a spike in blood pressure. Many people experiencing stress find it difficult to sleep, too. So, if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, why not try being more active? It’s almost certain to help!
Exercise and Self-Esteem
It’s also been proven that exercise has a hugely beneficial impact on our self-esteem. Self-esteem is a key indicator of our mental health and well-being and any positive influence we can have on it, is a bonus. Exercise and physical activity gives you a sense of achievement and a sense of self-worth that very little else does, meanwhile if you manage to reach targets, such as weight loss goals, or performance targets, then this can only have an extra beneficial impact on your self-esteem
Exercise, Dementia & Cognitive Decline
This is an area that people are less familiar with. As the population has aged, so the number of cases of degenerative cognitive conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease has increased. However, decline in cognitive function, such as memory loss and a lack of concentration is common among even those older people who do not suffer from these terrible conditions.
Studies have shown, however, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Daily physical activity among adults has been proven to reduce the chances of adults contracting dementia by as much as 20% or 30%. Meanwhile, daily exercise also makes people far less likely to experience symptoms of cognitive decline, even if they don’t develop a condition such as dementia.
Exercise, Depression & Anxiety
In some cases, exercise is being prescribed by medical experts instead of or as a supplement to anti-depressant medication. There are little or no side effects and exercise lacks the stigma of taking medication, or attending therapy sessions, making it a hugely effective tool in the armoury against these conditions. Exercise is also cost-effective and available to everyone. It has been proven to help reduce levels of anxiety and depression in people with mild symptoms, while it also empowers people to self-manage their own conditions, further helping improve their mental health and well-being.
So there you have it. Exercise and physical activity really is one of the best tools we have for improving our mental health. Remember, prevention is better than the cure, so get out there and get active!