Mental Health

The burdens of the mind far outweigh the burdens our body has to bear. Yet, in the society we live in, it is the body that receives the most amount of care and attention. Though the situation is slowly changing, there is a long way to go.

Exercising has numerous mental health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety. Complementing physical activity with innovative psychotherapy can further enhance mental well-being. This approach provides personalized therapeutic techniques that address individual needs, promoting a comprehensive path to mental health and overall wellness. Integrating exercise with professional psychotherapy creates a balanced strategy for improving mental health.

Is this to say that you shouldn’t be putting so much time and effort into your physical fitness? Absolutely not. In fact, this entire piece will explore the positive effects of physical exercise on your mental health. It’ll explore why you have that feeling of positivity and happiness each time you’re done with a run or step out of a gym.

Exercise and Mental Health: What is the Relationship?

First things first, physical exercise of any kind is seen to have a significant positive effect on a person’s mental health. Research has shown that exercising can help to regulate stress hormones and trigger the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters.

While this helps individuals who are battling the normal stressors of life cope with them, when combined with appropriate clinical treatment, it can help individuals with depression, ADHD, and other mental health issues.

The lack of awareness about the mental health benefits of physical exertion prevents a lot of people with mental health challenges from leveraging those benefits.

How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?

Beyond the complex contortions of the human body associated with exercising, way more complicated chemical processes occur within the body itself each time you exercise. Anything from a simple jog to the most complex yoga positions all have a positive effect on your mind. Some noticeable benefits of exercise on mental health include:

Better Sleep

Exercise helps you sleep better. It helps regulate your sleep patterns allowing you to feel more refreshed and energetic after you wake up. Exercising in the evenings has a better effect on your sleep.

Higher Levels of Self-Esteem

Exercise is also shown to have an impact on a person’s self-esteem. It helps you feel more comfortable with your body and can help improve your self-confidence. Both because of societal norms and biology, physical activity is directly linked to a person’s self-esteem.

Improved Memory and Thinking Capabilities

Remember when we said that there was a complex chemical process your body underwent each time your body exercised, well the same thing is linked to keeping your brain sharper and improving your memory. Further, regular exercise is seen to keep age-related cognitive decline at bay to an extent.
Can exercising help with specific mental health disorders?

To begin with, let’s make one thing clear. Physical exercise will always be a supplement to a treatment plan recommended by a mental professional. Having said this, research has shown that exercise is linked to some very real benefits for those battling a variety of mental health disorders.

Effect of Exercise on Depression

For those battling mild to moderate depression, exercise can have the same effect as antidepressant medication, studies have shown. Having a regular exercise schedule can not only help you cope with the symptoms of the disorder, but it can also help prevent a person battling depression from relapsing.

Effect of Exercise on Anxiety

Stress and tension are some of the main sources of anxiety in people. The chemicals released during a physical workout help combat these factors, consequently leading to better coping against anxiety. Focusing on the act of exercising and your body can also be an act of mindfulness that is seen to be extremely helpful with anxiety.

Effect of Exercise on ADHD

ADHD is a mental health disorder characterized by an inability to focus on a single thing or being extremely energetic in a way that is detrimental to oneself. The disorder causes significant distress to individuals.

The chemical processes associated with exercising, including the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, all help improve an individual's focus and attention levels. This is especially helpful for those battling ADHD, allowing them to do more daily.

PTSD and Exercise

Individuals who have faced any kind of physical, emotional, or verbal trauma can face post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Characterized by a failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing trauma, this disorder can severely hamper a person’s quality of life and even have severe consequences.

One factor involved in PTSD is Tonic Immobility (TI), where the nervous system just shuts down, rendering a person immobile. Regular exercise, in tandem with appropriate treatment, is seen to help individuals overcome TI associated with PTSD. Exercising also helps with multiple other symptoms of the disorder.

So, how much exercise is enough?

While there isn’t a set limit to how much you should exercise, there is a definite sweet spot when it comes to the mental health benefits associated with it. Studies show that around 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 times a week is enough for you to reap the benefits associated with physical activity.

While popular culture and social media today glorify spending hours in the gym and getting a ripped body, that is not really necessary when it comes to the effects of exercise on your mind. Mild to moderate exercise where you are slightly taxing your body is more than enough to keep your spirits up.

A Note of Caution

While the benefits of exercise on mental health and in the battle against mental health disorders are undeniable, it needs to be reiterated that these are supplementary measures to helping you feel better. The first step to recovery from mental health challenges is to always seek help from a mental health organization or professional.