Lifestyle modifications are cost-effective measures for optimizing the health and the overall quality of life. While many of these modifications will benefit only the physical health, there are some modifications that will positively impact both the physical and mental health. Of these, exercise is the most beneficial.

Happy man who exercises for mental health.

If you suffer from a mental health issue – be it depression, anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, or one of the many other illnesses – you will benefit immensely from boosting your level of physical activity and engaging in a regular exercise regimen. In this in-depth guide, you will learn how exercising helps your mental health.

How Is Exercise Good for Mental Health?

The effects of exercise have been studied extensively throughout the years. Researchers have found that while it is an excellent means of boosting the physical health, it also has a long-lasting positive effect on the mental health.

When we exercise, the body immediately produces both enkephalins and endorphins. These are your “feel good” hormones.

This production proves that exercise does have a direct affect on our brains. When you exercise, the following occurs:

  1. The volume levels of certain regions of the brain are increased. This is due to the fact that – when we exercise – there is a higher supply of blood being pumped to the brain and other areas of the nervous system. The blood delivers higher concentrations of oxygen and critical nutrients.
  2. As the brain receives higher levels of nutrients and more oxygen, signals move between neurons faster, neural growth is enhanced, and connections within the brain grow significantly stronger.
  3. The hippocampus of the brain – which aids in the regulation of emotions, the ability to retain and recall information, and learning – quickly creates new neurons through a process that is referred to as “neurogenesis”. Prescription antidepressants push this process within the body to assist those that suffer from depression.
happy women enjoying the social benefits of exercise

Is There a Social Benefit of Physical Activity?

There is not just one social benefit of physical activity, but many. This is especially true for those that suffer from mental health problems.

First, is the simple interaction with others. By getting together with others – be it just an exercise partner or a group – to exercise, you are taking yourself out of isolation and connecting with those that have similar goals.

By interacting socially, you are holding yourself to a higher level of accountability, you are surrounded by others that will encourage you and lift you up, you push harder to exercise more, you become part of a team, you will laugh more, and you will have more fun.

Exercising socially will just make you “feel good”- be it aerobics, swimming, walking, jogging, or dancing.

Woman practicing her exercise regimen with physical coach

Creating an Exercise Regimen

Before starting an exercise regimen to boost your mental health, you should meet with your doctor to determine what is right for you, based on your general health.

Once you receive approval and are offered various options, it’s really beneficial to consult with a physical therapist.

A physical therapist will design the most effective workouts. They will conduct an interview and review your health records to determine which physical activities will be most suitable for your needs. Then find the right regimen for you. These may include – but are not limited to – the following:

How Much Exercise is Enough to Boost the Mental Health?

If you are not currently engaging in a regular exercise program, you may find yourself a bit intimidated by starting something new. This is normal; however, you may be pleased to know that you do not have to strain yourself with long complicated workouts.

Moderate exercise is ideal.

Essentially, professionals agree that 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week is enough to achieve optimal mental health.

Many may choose to do the entire session in a 30-minute block. If you are not comfortable with this amount to start, you might engage in shorter 10 to 15 minute sessions, multiple times a day, or at regular intervals throughout the week.

do an exercise you find interesting

Sticking with an Exercise Program

When starting an exercise regimen to improve your mental health, you should start in such a way that holds your interest. As a result, you are likely to actually stick with the program.

To achieve the highest level of success, start with an activity that you either enjoy or find interesting. Start slowly and then work your way up. Gradual is better than full-force.

You should also make sure that you write in your routine as part of your normal schedule. Plan for physical activity to become part of your “normal” life. This way, the activities will become habits.

As you develop the habit of exercising, you will also develop the habit of being happy!

In Conclusion

Exercise is a wonderful activity for your mental health. It helps in gaining control over your emotions, your ability to cope with situations and events, and increasing your self-esteem. It can help in distracting you from negativity that you face or feel.

As you get more physical, more “feel good” hormones will be released through your body. As these chemicals increase, you will find that you experience fewer complications with stress, depression, and anxiety.

Look forward to any symptoms associated with mental illness to lessen in severity.

Exercising also offers you the opportunity to interact with others. If you want to feel good – physically and mentally – it is imperative to increase your level of physical activity. Movement IS medicine.

For help in starting an exercise regimen and making lifestyle modifications that will leave you feeling great, contact us.