How Does Fitness Impact Your Mental Health?


You already know that physical activities are good if you want to keep fit. But are you aware such activities can also impact your mental health by improving your sleep, boosting your mood, and manage stress, anxiety, and depression?

Physical activities aren’t just for building muscles alone. They can also help improve your mental wellbeing, improve your libido, and even prolong your life. Exercise can also be a fantastic remedy for common mental disorders.

Regular exercises can help you manage stress, anxiety, depression, deal with insomnia, and boost your mood. If you want to know more about treating depression, you can read more here.

Achieving Fitness

To be fit, you need to keep exercising regularly. Exercise refers to any body movement that involves the muscles and use of energy. It includes activity that makes you breathe fast or raises your heart rate. The good thing is that you don’t have to be a fitness pro to enjoy these benefits. Even small amounts of exercise like walking and jogging can make a big difference.

Medical experts recommend that an average adult should exercise between 75 and 150 minutes each week. These exercises can range from simple exercises like walking or jogging to vigorous exercises like Pilates and swimming.

Being fit comes with various health benefits. A person who exercises regularly can keep his or her weight in check. Because of this, a person has lower risks of developing heart conditions, diabetes, and other health problems. While this is the most obvious benefit of staying fit, what many don’t know is that being fit and healthy also has benefits for mental health.

How Fitness Impacts Mental Health

Being fit does not really affect mental health, per se. It’s the physical activities you do that have a profound impact on your mental health. Staying fit entails regular exercises, and that’s how your mental health is affected by it.

Regular exercises are the best ways to deal with stress. They help your brain release endorphin, a chemical that allows you to deal with stress. Endorphin also helps reduce body pain. Exercises help your muscles relax, and since your body and mind are linked, then the mind becomes peaceful once your body is relaxed.

  1. Reduces Anxiety

Any physical activity is an effective medicine for anxiety. It reduces stress and tension in your body. It also boosts your mental and physical wellbeing by helping your brain release endorphins. Focus on how your body feels as you exercise.  In doing so, you won’t only improve your physical wellbeing, but you may also be able to deal with stress, anxiety, and keep unnecessary worries away.

  1. Lowers Risk of Depression

Regular exercise is a fantastic fighter against depression. Research shows that physical activities can help deal with mild and moderate depression and you won’t experience any side effects. Research by the Havard T.H Chan School found that walking for one hour or running for 15 minutes every day can reduce the risk of depression by 26%.

Exercises promote neural growth, and since your body releases endorphins, it makes you feel good. Exercise can also allow you to break from your daily routine and shake off negative thoughts that can lead to depression.

How Does Fitness Impact Your Mental Health

  1. Manages Stress and Trauma

Focusing on your body as you exercise can help your nervous system become unstuck and deal effectively with stress that causes trauma. Trauma is an emotional response to a terrifying event like the death of a loved one, accidents, or a natural catastrophe.  Immediately after the event, you’ll be faced with shock and denial. That may lead to unpredictable emotions, strained relationships, flashbacks, headaches, and nausea.

Instead of allowing your mind to be carried away by those events, consider engaging in some exercises. The best exercises are those that engage both your legs and arms. Such exercises include walking, jogging, running, dancing, weight training, or swimming. Other outdoor activities like mountain biking, sailing, hiking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting are also helpful.

  1. Improves Memory

As noted earlier, exercise can help your brain release endorphins that can help you achieve peace of mind. Endorphins can also sharpen your mind, thus allowing you to concentrate on more tasks and increase productivity. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to stimulate responses in the brain. Indirectly, exercise reduces stress and anxiety, factors that usually contribute to poor mental health.

  1. Better Sleeping Patterns

For several years, many researchers have tried to find out the relationship between physical activities and sleep. Most of them have concluded that proper exercise can minimize most sleep-related challenges and help you have adequate sleep. Even a little exercise, in the morning or evening, can help improve your sleeping patterns.

For instance, if you prefer to exercise in the evening, relaxing physical activities such as gentle stretching or yoga can help promote better sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep helps your mind and body recharge properly. This leads to a healthier body, better mood, and a productive and alert mind.

  1. Resilience

Exercising is a healthy way of coping with stress, trauma, and depression. Instead of resorting to bad habits that will make your situation worse, exercises promote a healthy lifestyle and a more beneficial way to deal with difficult situations. It also builds a resilient and patient attitude that can be carried over in various aspects of life.

  1. Increased Happiness

As mentioned, physical activities can cause your brain to release a ‘happy chemical’ known as endorphins. Apart from endorphins, exercise may trigger your brain to release other chemicals associated with happiness. Some of these chemicals include dopamine, endocannabinoid, and adrenaline. These brain chemicals can regulate your mood and help you feel capable, confident, and happy.

  1. Dealing With Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways of dealing with ADHD. ADHD is a common mental disorder in both children and adults. Exercise works by boosting serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine enzymes which improve focus and attention.

Overcoming Challenges To Exercise

Almost everyone knows the various benefits of regular exercises but despite that, many people still find it hard to stick to a fitness regimen. It is indeed quite difficult to build a habit of exercising as this also involved a lot of self-discipline. Below are some challenges when it comes to exercising, and how you can overcome them.

  • Feeling Overwhelmed

Most of the time, when you’re depressed, adding exercises to your daily routine can seem overwhelming and impossible. If you have a full-time job and a family that needs your care and attention, exercising can be a big challenge.

What you need to do is introduce simple exercises into your daily routine. Do this slowly but surely. You don’t have to go all out and buy a gym membership when you decide to start out, as this is the easiest way for you to get overwhelmed. Instead, start by incorporating 15-minute brisk walks in the morning or afternoon.

You can also opt for 15-minute jogs. After a week or so, you can stretch that time to 20 minutes or 30 minutes. You can increase gradually as you go along, and you’ll probably notice that your endurance and stamina gradually increase as well!

  • Exhaustion

Since exercising involves physical activities, it’s normal to get exhausted. The danger of exhaustion, however, is that you might eventually lose the motivation to maintain your exercise routine. So, as much as possible, don’t overwork yourself to a point of exhaustion. If you cannot do a 30-minute jog on certain days, then just do brisk walks for 15 minutes or so. Keep in mind that the important thing here is to keep moving!

You can also set aside several days in a week for rest and recreation so you can recharge for the next exercise. For example, you can only exercise on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. All the other days shall be spent on hobbies and family activities.

  • Pain

Exercising can be painful, and there might be times that you’ll get injured or strained after a vigorous workout. When this happens, consult your doctor about how you can continue safe exercises. Alternatively, you can divide your exercise into smaller chunks of time, which will help you keep moving. Avoid vigorous activities that can increase your pain.

Exercising on a hard surface can worsen the pain. So, consider doing your exercises on soft surfaces. You can also consider doing your exercise in water. Slow swimming is an excellent example of such.

Takeaway

Exercises lead to neurogenesis, a process of creating new brain cells which leads to improvement in overall brain performance. Exercise also prevents mental decline and memory loss by improving the hippocampus, which enhances memory and retention.

So, if you want to take good care of your mental health, exercising is a great option to consider. Aside from physical benefits, exercises also have benefits for cognitive health. It sharpens your brain and reduces stress, anxiety, or depression. Aside from that, it helps improve the quality of your sleep which further regulates your mood and increases overall productivity. The endorphins that are released during physical exercises also boost one’s mood.

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