Six Ways That Exercise Helps Your Mental HealthBeth Wright
As we enter March, our calendars remind us that the clocks are going forward whilst the annual crop of crocuses and snowdrops tease us with their presence. The smell of spring flowers is overwhelming and slightly joyous if truth be known. Things are looking up in the main, although some of us might need a little to dig a little deeper to find a spring in our step. So what can we do to help?
According to research conducted by Mental Health UK, you are 30% less likely to suffer from depression if you engage in some form of regular exercise, Whilst regular exercise might be a daunting prospect to many, there are a number of other physical, emotional and psychological benefits – perhaps the biggest initial challenge though is how to get started. So how does exercise help with mental health?
How Does Exercise Help With Mental Health
Whilst some forms of mental health challenges might be linked to chemical imbalances within the system or borne out of extreme trauma, loss, PTSD or a genetic predisposition, sometimes just stepping outside of oneself and ‘looking up’ can be a positive step towards feeling better in yourself.
Sunshine and fresh air are two of Mother Nature’s gifts to us and whilst here in the UK, an infusion of natural Vitamin D might not be readily available, re-calibrating your emotional vibration can be achieved by simply doing something different and changing your environment.
Why Does Exercise Help Mental Health?
There are many pluses when it comes to exercising, over and above a release of our natural feel-good hormones, endorphins and serotonin. Some of the top benefits that we know about include improved sleep, stress relief, improved mood, self-confidence, social skills and overall emotional balance.
1. Improves Sleep
We know how grumpy toddlers get when they are tired or hungry. Well, grown-ups also get tired and can behave like little people in adult clothing from time to time. When we are sleep deprived, cortisol kicks in and puts additional pressure on our adrenals and system overall, particularly if we are over-compensating with salty, sugary or caffeinated drinks and snacks. If you are able to, a short nap during the day can really help – a little 40-winks as a little treat. Exercise is slightly counter-intuitive when it comes to feeling tired: whilst we might want to opt out of a class, it might actually re-energise us and help us to improve on quality REMs.
2. Stress Relief
Modern life is not easy – technology might have its plusses, but we don’t yet have an App or ‘chip’ that can manage internal stress from the inside out. Taking to the streets for a jog or to our folding bike if the weather is bad are great ways to banish negativity after a hard day and to take yourself into a different space – for some ‘me time’. Have a read of our recent blog ‘How To Improve Fitness At Home
3. Improves Mood
Exercise doesn’t only have to help you with stress levels but can also alter your mood as well. We all know how hearing a particular song or type of music can shift your mood, trigger a memory or thought pattern. Just put in those earbuds or headphones and take yourself away to a different time and place while you pedal or walk. Or commit to some stretching before bed, whilst listening to the sounds of the sea to calm you.
4. Improves Self Confidence
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with ‘perfect’ lifestyles and images of ‘the body beautiful’, especially on social media. This can cause a lot of stress in terms of their own body confidence or feelings of ‘not being enough’, especially as we get older. If you are a little overweight or have been through illness, it can take a bit of time to find yourself again. Exercise can help you to achieve this – if you feel more confident about how you look, this can have a domino effect across all aspects of your life and how you project onto the outside world.
5. Increases Social Interaction
Once your confidence kicks in, you might be more inclined to venture out and socialise or join a group sporting activity such as tennis, a running club or an aerobics class. Rest assured, exercise doesn’t need to be over-exerting if you don’t want it to be – as the sun comes out (soon, we hope!) those bowling greens and river boats are ever-more appealing.
6. Improves Emotional Balance
As with everything in life, it is all about balance: yin and yang; healthy versus cheat days, fun times and being ‘grown up’. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore or a bind. It should be enjoyable. If you made a New Year’s Resolution at the end of 2022, don’t feel down about it if your goals slipped during February. Just shake it off, dust yourself down and get back on the treadmill or your chosen activity.
If you haven’t read our New Year’s Blog, “23 & you” don’t forget though, you’ve got one hour less each day so make the most of every minute.