MAY: MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH
Why does exercise make us feel better, mentally?
Often, people who exercise regularly do it simply because it makes them feel good. Exercise can boost your mood, concentration and alertness. It can even help give you a positive outlook on life.
The link between exercise and mental health is complicated. Inactivity can be both a cause and a consequence of mental illness. But there are lots of ways that exercise can benefit your mental health, such as:
- The levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins, change when you exercise.
- Regular exercise can help you sleep better. And good sleep helps you manage your mood.
- Exercise can improve your sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem. People who exercise regularly often report how good achieving a goal makes them feel.
- Exercise can distract you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences.
- It offers an opportunity to socialize and get social support if you exercise with others.
- Exercise increases your energy levels.
- Physical activity can be an outlet for your frustrations.
- Exercise can reduce skeletal muscle tension, which helps you feel more relaxed.
The physical benefits of exercise are also important for people with mental illness. It improves your cardiovascular health and overall physical health. This is important because people with mental health issues are at a higher risk of suffering from chronic physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and asthma.
Exercising for your mental health
If regular exercise is not already a part of your routine, you might be wondering how much you need to do to give your mental health a boost.
The really good news is exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or take a long time. Studies show low or moderate intensity exercise is enough to make a difference in terms of your mood and thinking patterns.
American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend adults should be active most days, aiming for a total of 2.5-5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, such as a brisk walk or swimming. Alternatively, they recommend getting 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous physical activity per week - such as jogging, fast cycling, or a team sport. Or, you can combine both moderate and vigorous activities.
However, any exercise is better than none. Going for a leisurely walk, or activities like stretching and yoga, can also have huge benefits on your mind and body. Even doing housework like sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming can give you a mild work out.