Physical Health and Mental Health, Part 2: Exercising Regularly

Man pushing a giant, heavy stone, rock over the mountain. Concep

This is Part 2 in a series. Read Part 1 here: “Physical Health and Mental Health, Part 1: Eating Healthfully“.

The relationship between Physical Health and Mental Health plays a significant role in our lives. It has been found that staying physically fit actually helps our mental health as well. When our physical health is poor it puts a great strain on our mental health.

Eating healthfully, exercising regularly and getting a good night’s sleep are all important elements in a mentally and physically healthy life. Lifestyle interventions with a combination of psychotherapy and medications are all important in one’s treatment plan.

The Importance of Exercising Regularly to Benefit Mental Health

One can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with just 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well.

It is well known that regular exercise is good for the body. But exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve our mental health as well. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on Depression, Anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and more. Exercising regularly can also relieve and reduce stress, enhance coping skills, improve memory, help sleep, and boost one’s mood overall. 

Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells which has been shown to help in age-related memory decline. It changes the brain in ways that protects memory and thinking skills.

Regular physical activity can also foster a sense of self-worth and a higher self- esteem, helping us to feel stronger both physically and mentally.

Aerobic exercises such as running, swimming, biking, dancing are all mood boosting.  

Exercise cannot cure Depression, Anxiety, or Attention Deficit Disorder but can help improve the symptoms.

Depression

When one exercises, there is a release of endorphins. Endorphins are powerful chemicals in our brain that energize our spirits and make us feel better. They may also serve to improve our overall mood as well as reduce the perception of pain.

Exercise can also serve as a distraction from worries and depressing thoughts.  Which allows one to find some time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.  

Exercise is not a substitute for medication or psychotherapy.

Anxiety

Exercise, proper diet, good sleep, and sunshine are all natural anxiety reducers. Physical activity relieves tension and stress and boosts physical and mental energy.  Exercise enhances our well-being through the release of endorphins, just as in Depression.

Physical Activity helps relax our muscles and relieves tension in our bodies.  Regular exercise can reduce the impact of stress, as well.

Yoga combines physical movement with meditation and deep breathing to help calm the mind and alleviate worry and is a great activity for those with Anxiety.

Exercise is not a cure for Anxiety but an enhancer to psychotherapy and medication treatments.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Exercise has been shown to improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels, all of which affect focus and attention. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand.

Executive functioning skills, psychotherapy, support groups, and medication prescribed by a doctor, as well as regular exercise can all be included in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Working with a Therapist specifically trained in Anxiety, Depression, and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is essential in the treatment of these Mental Health Disorders.  Exercise alone should not be considered a substitute for medication or psychotherapy. You can search for a specialist in Anxiety and/or Depression on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website. To find a specialist in ADHD, please visit CHADD.org.

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