The positive link between exercise and mental health
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
It is commonly known that movement and physical activity support overall health and well-being. Today we know that regular exercise can be linked to mental health benefits as well. Mental Health Awareness is a growing topic and with it many tools and techniques of how it can be improved. For many year mental health was a tabu topic. Many people would not openly discuss their mood and mental well-being. Therapy was often understood as the last straw, instead of a way of maintaining optimal mental and emotional health and building a strong support system around once overall well-being. Let's explore the connections between physical activities and mood and well-being.
Exercise can stimulate and increase the release of ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals, also known as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Numerous studies have shown that exercise increases serotonin production and release. You might have heard of the ‘runners high’, as an example.
The release of serotonin is directly connected with mood boosting qualities and overall sense of well-being. Besides being connected with an immediate effect on your mood, it may also improve appetite and sleep cycles, which play an important part in a healthy lifestyle and may improve your body’s level of stress hormones.
Additional benefits of regular exercise may also include a greater feeling of confidence and a feeling of control and achievement, if exercise-related goals are met. Many types of exercises include a group setting or trainer - client relationship which offer a a mood-boosting social benefits. Often sport clubs build a sustainable community around workouts, which bring people together and encourage the social connections.
While any amount of exercise can help to elevate ones feeling of well-being, regular exercise has shown to be the most beneficial. Positive effects can be realized with about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. This is the equivalent of a brisk walk, or light jog on five days of the week. Adding about two muscle-strengthening activities per week provide further benefits. While it can be weightlifting even many yoga and pilates classes offer movements that strengthen your muscles. Get creative.
Bottom line, regular exercising has a whole list of benefits for your body and mind. On your next walk or in your next workout class, keep in mind that you are not just toning your body, but also boosting your mood and improving your mental health! Keep moving.