Physical exercise is a key aspect of a healthy life and the capacity to face the challenges in store for us. The importance of exercise for mental health cannot be overstated.
According to recent studies, getting outside and working up a sweat is not just about creating lean bodies and rippling pectorals. As it turns out, those looking to build powerful minds and increase mental health will find regular healthy exercise is a key step in accomplishing these goals.
In today’s post, we will look at how pushing physical capacity can result in a stronger brain, resilient emotional balance, and positively attractive mental acuity. With so much relying on mental performance in this modern era, this is just another good reason to get some fun healthy exercise.
Mental health is besieged from all sides and conditions of the mind are affecting everyone from the elderly to school-aged children. The underlying causes are also getting more complex. They include everything from poor dietary habits, social media exposure, and, of course, lack of exercise. Naturally, this global condition of poor mental health has some simple solutions.1
Simply including a little more exercise in the daily schedule can be one of the most effective plans for maintaining a stable and resilient mental faculty. According to the experts in physical exercise and mental health, exercise is a key component in maintaining good health and preventing serious mental illness.2
Exercise is even being considered as an important component in treating conditions like schizophrenia, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), conduct disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. These conditions are often more difficult to treat and even standard medications can have different effects from patient to patient.3
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But physical exercise is profoundly effective at energizing the body, inspiring the mind, and soothing the nervous system. Because of its great benefits to the brain and mental faculty, exercise therapy is being developed to prevent and treat mental disorders as a component of regular therapy. The single greatest benefit exercise offers when treating mental illness is its capacity to prevent and counter the physiological effects of stress.4
6 Ways that Exercise Improves Mental Health
Improves Brain Development
A brain requires regular exercise to develop properly and this begins in early childhood. Studies have found that physical activity helps to build healthy white matter in the brain which is essential to transmitting electrical impulses through the brain. Exercise also promotes the expression of BDNF which encourages the growth of healthy brain structures and also counters the effects of depression and anxiety.5,6
Stress reacts very quickly to a perceived threat in its environment and can prepare the body for quick action. This is the natural “fight or flight” response. The effects of the body’s “red alert” emergency-power mode can be very strenuous and even debilitating on the body. But regular exercise for mental health can improve the body’s fortitude and capacity to cope with stress and even reduces its sensitivity to stressful situations.7
There is a secret treasure that waits past moments of complete and exhaustion from physical exertion which causes the world’s best athletes to increase their performance. Actually, athletes of all skill levels can enjoy the feeling of elation and euphoria that comes from a sudden rush of feel-good neurotransmitters that flood the brain after an intense workout. Exercise can affect the functions of glutamate, dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, which is why it is a great treatment for conditions like Parkinson’s.8
The human body can lift all sorts of weights, leap obstacles, and traverse terrain. But even better, just engaging in physical exercise improves self-confidence. Studies show middle-aged women felt considerably more confident in their physical appearance after engaging in regular exercise over a two-year period.9,10
There are experts in the medical community who believe all this indoor living and operating could be dragging our demeanor down. There are just so many elements outdoors that work to improve the mood, relax the nerves, and even nourish the brain. We can begin with vitamin D from the sun, which is considered an effective antidepressant. Exercising for mental health can involve being outside, benefitting from all of the positives of being outside.
Then there are other natural organic compounds in the plants, trees, air, and soil that can boost the mood and counter feelings of stress. Terpenes are secondary metabolites from plants and trees that have great benefits for physical and mental health.11,12
Towards late adulthood, the hippocampus begins to shrink. This brain structure is essential for the formation of long-term and short-term memory. This shrinkage can lead to memory failures and leads to a higher risk of dementia. But those adults who have maintained a healthy exercise program throughout their adult life avoid this problem.13
Final Notes on Physical Exercise for Mental Health
If you are hoping for a fitter body or impressive muscle build, you may have to put in more time and effort. Luckily, to gain the mental health benefits of physical exercise regular consistent practice is the primary goal.
Even getting outside to raise your heart and breathing rate for around 20 to 30 minutes is all that’s required. You don’t even have to raise your breathing all that much. You should be able to talk easily, but not be able to sing due to elevated breathing.
As time goes by, you can increase your exercise time as you see fit. Remember to keep your exercise activities aligned with your overall goals of mental and physical health.
Photo credits: artyme83/shutterstock.com, nd3000/shutterstock.com, JacobLund/shutterstock.com, MiniStocker/shutterstock.com