The Importance of Exercise for your Mental Health

We are all aware of the benefits of exercise on our physical health, but are we aware of just how much exercise can improve our mental health?

As we battle a pandemic, yoyoing in and out of lockdowns and socially distancing from our loved ones, our mental health may be more vulnerable than ever.

It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the UK last week experienced a common mental health problem, for instance, depression, anxiety or bipolar. In 2013, it was proven that 8.2 million people in the UK alone had anxiety, with women twice as likely to be diagnosed as men. Adding to this, in 2014 19.6% of people in the UK showed symptoms of depression or anxiety, with depression being the most prominent mental health illness worldwide [1]

Physical exercise has a huge upside for our mental health and wellbeing, this doesn’t need to be a 3-hour long run or a cross country cycle. A simple brisk 10-minute walk can boost our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. [2]

The NHS recommends that 150 moderate exercise or 75 minutes of exercise per week reduces anxiety, depression and negative mood whilst improving self-esteem [3].

Improves our Mood

It is proven that physical exercise has a positive impact on our mood, research was carried out measuring people’s mood after exercise compared to activates such as reading and watching TV. The research proved that participates mood was drastically higher after exercise [4]

  • Exercise helps chronic depression by increasing serotonin (which helps the brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite).
  • Exercise releases endorphins, which is a natural mood lifter.
  • Exercise improves our sleep and there is a proven link between sleep uplifting our mood.
  • Completing a workout gives us a sense of achievement which again lifts our mood. [5]

Decrease Stress Levels

When situations occur that make us feel threatened, for instance, the current coronavirus pandemic, our body’s defense kicks in and can create a stress response [6].

Physical exercise can act as somewhere for your mind to escape the day to day struggles that you may be facing, resulting in your mind clearing and giving you a chance to digest your thoughts.

Improves our Self Esteem

For so many, exercising at first is to have a smaller waistline or bigger muscles. However, once you actually achieve these goals and start seeing the progression you build a sense of achievement, self-pride, and control which in turn builds your self-esteem. More often than not, this allows you to achieve external life goals such as a job promotion from your newfound self-confidence from exercising. [7]

Anxiety and Depression

A lot of the points we’ve already gone over for the benefits of exercising on our mental health aid the prevention and improvement of anxiety and depression. Yet, a few other benefits include:

  • Providing social interaction – this may be difficult in the current climate, yet even receiving a smile from someone passing you by on a run can lift your mood and make you feel happier.
  • Coping in a healthy way – many people struggling with anxiety and depression turn to negative coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drugs. Exercise (as we’ve explained) has many positive side effects, therefore it is a very healthy way of coping [8].

A final note…

As we enter some of the toughest months some of us would have ever been through, with a 3rd national lockdown, cold winter nights, and almost a year without seeing loved ones I truly believe exercise is the answer to help get you through.

Our mental health is as important, if not more important as our physical health, therefore don’t let the next 6-8 weeks go by without supporting it in the best way you possibly can.

Let’s get after 2021 together!

Written by Miles Branford, Marketing Executive.

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