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How Regular Exercise Improves Your Mental Health

May 12, 2022

We all know that exercise and an active lifestyle are good for the body, soul, and mind. We feel great after a good workout, both physically and mentally.

Very often this is referred to as the runner's high. Medical research supports the notion that regular exercise has a positive and effective impact on mental health and overall wellness. Mental health practitioners are just now beginning to recognize the importance of regular workouts as a clinical tool and are adding exercise as a natural treatment for their patients.

Overall happiness and mental well-being can be achieved by adding exercise and workouts that are enjoyable. It’s fun and fulfilling to exercise and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle when you choose activities you love to do. Consider the following ways exercise improves your mental health and suggestions for simple exercises you can start doing now.

Man running

Reduced Depression and Anxiety

Studies show that moods are regulated by the hippocampus, the most studied region in the brain. Regular exercise increases cell growth in the hippocampus which dramatically helps to relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise also releases vital hormones in our brains that help us feel good. These are known as “happy hormones,” which are serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine. Regular aerobic exercise, like running or walking, just 30 minutes a day or even three 10-minute clips a day, has a profound impact on the lessening of symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Better Sleep

Sleep affects the performance of every part of the body including the brain. Mental health experts suggest aerobic activity such as running and walking, powerlifting or yoga can help you achieve a great night’s sleep. Since exercise releases endorphins that keep the brain active, try to exercise at least two hours prior to bedtime to enable the endorphins to calm down.

Women Stretching

Stress Reduction

Researchers are concluding that stress and physical activity go hand in hand. The more we exercise, the better we cope with our busy jobs, traffic jams, and other daily stressors. Just as exercise releases hormones like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin that make us feel better, it reduces the release of the stress hormones in our brain. Any regular exercise like simple walks or runs can have a positive and lasting effect.

Improved Self-Esteem and Confidence

The hormones that exercise releases help us feel happier and more relaxed. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle help you feel physically fit, healthy, looking better, and accomplished, which are all profound confidence boosters. Our clothes fit better and hitting our exercise goals, even the small ones, gives us a remarkable sense of achievement.

Mental Resilience

Successfully and calmly dealing with everyday struggles both big and small is important. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise is key to building mental resilience. Aerobic exercises like running or walking outside, tai chi, yoga, and stretching are proving to be effective.

Two people running together

Reduction of ADHD Symptoms

Children and adults with ADHD can enjoy the positive benefits of regular exercise. Studies show that hyperactivity, a tendency toward aggressive behavior, and the inability to focus, prevalent in those with ADHD, are greatly decreased by adding exercise to their treatment plan. Daily exercise also helps to use up extra or pent-up energy common to those with ADHD. Many researchers are finding regular workouts that are outside and in the morning have the most impact, and they've found more complex workouts such as martial arts are the most effective.

PTSD Symptom Reduction

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is associated with a past horrific or life-threatening event that drastically affects mental health. Studies are showing that moderately intense aerobic activities, such as running or hiking greatly enhance the overall well-being and mood improvement of those with PTSD. One study has shown PTSD symptoms lessened with just two weeks of stationary biking. Most types of exercise are shown to be effective, including low intensity and modified workouts, as some PTSD patients may have physical limitations.

Women with exercise ball

Simple Exercises to Get Started

Getting off the proverbial couch and starting any kind of exercise program may be the most difficult step, especially for those experiencing depression. Keep it simple by beginning with a walk or run for just 10 minutes a day and gradually add more time. Make working out a social activity and join a gym, a group aerobic class, a community sports team, or go out dancing with your friends. Consider these fun and simple ways to add more exercise to your routine and get started:

  • Aerobic and other group classes
  • Basketball or other sorts
  • Bike riding
  • Brisk neighborhood walks
  • Dancing
  • Martial Arts
  • Nature hikes
  • Outdoor gardening
  • Running and jogging
  • Swimming laps



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