While the physical benefits of exercise are generally the most commonly thought of, and the most noticeable, it goes much further than that. The benefits of exercise regarding mental health are just as good, and for some people, even more of a necessity. When you exercise, your body will release endorphins, which will make you feel good! Now, most people don’t even notice this in comparison to how they are physically feeling, but it is there. People who exercise more regularly will get a better and better effect from this and will generally feel much better mentally than those who don’t exercise regularly. On top of this, they will also generally have more energy, sleep better, remember things better and just be overall more positive.
On a normal, healthy level, this is a great thing to have.
What is even better though, is the positive effects that exercise can have on the mental health for many of the more common mental health challenges. Studies have shown that exercise can be very effective in treating mild to moderate depression. In fact, after half an hour, similar results have been found with exercise compared to antidepressant medication. The big difference though, is that exercise doesn’t come with the side-effects and downsides that come with medications. To further strengthen this, it has also been shown in the past that exercise can prevent these people from relapsing into a state of depression, once they have gotten themselves out of it.
There are a few different ways in which exercise is beneficial here. On top of the endorphin release mentioned earlier, there is also signs of neural growth in the brain after regular exercise.
Exercise has also been shown to reduce the effects of anxiety and stress. The increased blood flow around the body through increased heart rate helps to get more oxygen to the brain, allowing the body to relax better and have more energy. Once your body relaxes more, it allows your mind to relax more! To add to this, as mentioned a few times already, the endorphin release that occurs during and after exercise is an effective combatant to the hormones which are creating the anxiety and stress in the first place!
Going down a different direction, exercise has also been shown to help improve the symptoms of things like ADHD. At the same time your body is releasing dopamine, it is also sending out a number of other hormones, including dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin. These are all directly affect our level of focus and attention. Having a higher amount of these in our system has been shown to have a similar affect to medication as well.
These are just a few of the “more common” mental health challenges that people have. The mental affects of exercise are so great that, where possible, it should always be included in a persons treatment for recovery in any type of mental illness
For those that are currently struggling with their mental health, it may be challenging to even start this on their own. In these instances, finding someone to help is always a good idea. Whether it is a friend or a Personal Trainer (or both if you are lucky!), having someone to help when things get hard will make the difference between being able to continue and improve, or stop and go backwards.