The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Emma Churchill

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Emma Churchill

We know that exercise is good for your physical wellbeing, but the mental health benefits are not quite so readily promoted. Not only can exercise improve our mood, help us manage stress, get a good nights sleep, but can also help us to manage times of anxiety or stress in the workplace. People who include exercise as part of their regular routine are often more productive and generally have a better overall sense of wellbeing. In a recent study by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Heath, they found that running or walking for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour a day can reduce the risk of depression by 26% as well as relieving symptoms of depression.

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

If you work within a pressured corporate role it can sometimes be a challenge to find the time to keep your body moving and take exercise, especially under times of pressure or stress. To remove exercise from your daily or weekly routine is the last thing that you should do. So, what are the benetis of taking regular exercise:

1. Improved physical wellbeing. There are many benefits to physical exercise which include weight management and boosting the immune system, both of which will reduce the risk of getting sick. Finding a form of exercise you love and varying your activity will help to build both muscle strength and cardio ability. If you enjoy playing as part of a team, this will also provide you with a social element which can also help boost your mental wellbeing.

2. Improved Sleep. Exercise can help to regulate our sleep patterns and improve the quality of sleep through the release of the hormone, Serotonin. Depending upon when you exercise during the day will depend upon what type of exervise will give you the greatest benefit. For example if you exercise before bed doing something like yoga, Pilates or stretches will give you the greatest results and help you to sleep better vs perhaps playing netball or tennis, where you may then need some time to quieten before going to sleep.

3. More Energy. Taking some type of cardiovascular exercise each week it will strength your heart and stamina, ultimately giving you more energy. Start slowly with a few minutes of exercise per day and increase your workout as your fitness levels rise.

4. Better Self-esteem. When you work out regularly, your body will feel better, tone and keep weight in check – resulting in you having a positive image of yourself. Smashing your exercise goals or socialing with others will all help you to feel a sense of achievement and greater wellbeing.

5. Managing Stess. It can be hard to manage stress in today’s fast-moving world. Whether you are working 9 to 5 job, a freelancer, running your own business or a stay-at-home parent looking after your children, you are likely to feel stressed at some stage. Stress can have a different impacts on our body, including reducing our immunity. When you are stressed your body releases a hormone called Cortisol which reduces white blood cells to help us fight infection. Whilst some stress can be good for us, enabling us to perform better, think about how nervous you get before a big presentation, over a prolonged period stress can have a negative effect on our performance. Exercise along with a healthy diet and good sleep hygiene can help us overcome this.

6. Reduced depression and anxiety: when you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression taking exercise can feel like an impossible task. But research has proven that it plays a significant role in reducing the symptoms by releasing chemincals in the body such as endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins make us feel good, often refered to as the “happy hormone”; whilst Serotonin helps us regulate our mood. Moving is crucial to overcoming that feeling of being stuck mentally and physically and is a healthier alternative to taking anti-depressants.

7. Taking some Me-Time! Taking some time out from your busy day, to do something that brings you joy can help you to put things in perspective and re-energise yourself. That could be catching up with a friend, playing tennis, hitting the gym, taking the dog for a walk outdoors or practicing mindfulness – helping you to reduce stress and maintain a healthy wellbeing.

In Conclusion

Exercise has been directly linked to helping you to improve your mental wellbeing. By finding a form of exercise which you will enjoy will not only bring physical benefits, mental wellbeing but potentially also social advantages as well. Make a start to do some exercise and build up gradually to achieve your fitness objectives. If you would like to try yoga or Pilates to bring a great sense of wellbeing, we offer any new clients the opportunity to try their first class for free – get in touch to discover more or arrange your session.

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