Physical activity is not only known to help improve the body’s physique but it also aids in the body’s mental health. Feeling stressed out or overcoming the bad Monday blues can be reduced or even eliminated by simple exercises.
When we engage in physical activity, the body releases feel good hormones called endorphins, so you have no choice but to feel better.
The effects of exercise on mood go beyond the short term facts. In multiple studies it was demonstrated that exercising helped alleviate clinical depression.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends people with mild to moderate depression partake in 45 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week.
Physical activity may help the brain cope better under stressful situations according to studies found in the brain’s neurochemical reactions to stressors. Exercise has also been found to improve sleep cycles and boost self-esteem which aids in reducing stress levels.
A good workout, run, walk or swim, is a good way to clear the mind. The increased aerobic exercise is associated with increased cognitive function.
A study conducted by the Department of Humane Movement Science found evidence that increased blood flow to the prefrontal lobe cortex was found during exercise. This area of the brain is responsible for executive functions, planning, cognitive behavior and decision making. This could explain the experience of a clarity during or after a workout.
“Individuals who exercised at least two to three times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, cynical distrust and stress than those exercising less frequently or not at all,” according to the physical exercise and psychological well-being study. “Furthermore, regular exercisers perceived their health and fitness to be better than less frequent exercisers did.”
The studies that support the claim that exercise is good for mental health are worldwide, but let’s take a look at the idea from a local point of view.
“Exercise isn’t just about dropping a clothing size or getting bigger muscles. The mental benefits are just as important as the physical benefits,” said Tina Brooks, Health and Fitness Specialist with Marine Corps Community Services. “Those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma find that exercise opens their thought process helping them to move beyond the trauma. It helps take your mind off the stress in your life and boost your self-confidence.
This helps you cope with life in a more healthy way, and you get to meet other like-minded people, so there are social benefits too.”
The mental benefits of physical activity seem endless.
So, next time you are feeling stressed or find yourself being a Debbie Downer, go for a run or get in a gym session and see how your mood instantly changes.
For more information on the mind to muscle connection of physical activity, visit www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658.