Exercise and Mental Health*

Thursday, 19 October 2017, By Drew Denford

Exercise and Mental Health

How are we looking? On a whole we recognise that not only nationally, yet globally, we as humans struggle with maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle. Some alarming stats: In the year 2016 almost 2 in 3 Australians were considered overweight or obese, 1 in 4 Australian children (aged 2-17) were considered overweight or obese and 22,700 weight loss surgeries were recorded.

What do these stats mean in regards to mental health? If we acknowledge these stats we can only begin to assume that a large percentage of these people have, or will experience some kind of mental health problem during their life. This is why it's imperative we recognize these stats, and begin to educate society on all of the positive affects exercise and healthy eating can have on people's mental health.

Experts say exercise has many benefits, not only for your physical health but also your mental health. In your brain, exercise stimulates chemicals that improve your mood and the parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

 

Benefits of exercise on a whole:

Exercise can make you feel better, even if you're feeling okay. And if you're feeling ok, exercise can make you feel great!

Some of the overall benefits of exercise include reducing the risk of illnesses like heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Exercise can also help people recover from stroke and many other illnesses and conditions.

 The added stress and worry of coping with one of the above illness' can lead to depression, especially if you're dealing with long-term management and/or chronic pain. With exercise being able to contribute positively to all of these in many different aspects, does it not seem essential that people are educated on this?

Exercise also helps you to lose weight if you want to, which is good for your overall health and might be good for your self-esteem.

Everyone wants to feel good right? So why is one of the easiest ways to feel good so easily neglected in today's society?

 

Mental health benefits of exercise

Exercise makes you feel good because it releases chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. It can also get you out in the world, help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation, and put you in touch with other people.

Serotonin: a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood, sleep, libido, appetite and other functions.

Problems in the serotonin pathways of the brain have been linked to depression. Exercise can also increase the level of endorphins in the brain which have 'mood-lifting' properties.

This is the case for many people who are refraining from getting involved in exercise or wanting to change their life, but are scared to because of today's big intimidating gyms, "Commando" style personal trainers and unfriendly environments. Your local Vision Personal Training Studio is the perfect place. These studios are small, friendly and boast supportive, non-intimidating atmospheres.

Exercising regularly can help reduce your stress levels and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and help with recovery from other mental health issues.

Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who do not exercise regularly. Trials have also shown that regular exercise of moderate intensity can be an effective adjunctive treatment by itself for both melancholic and non-melancholic depression.

Both aerobic exercise (e.g. brisk walking, cycling or jogging) and resistance or strength training (e.g. weight-lifting) have been found to be helpful in treating depression.

Exercise also helps improve your sleep, which is important in many different ways. For more information on this topic please refer to our article; "strategies to improve your sleep." This can be found on the Vision Personal Training Blakehurst page under Articles.

 

Exercise and the mind

Exercise pumps blood to the brain, which will contribute to clearer thoughts. It also increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.

It also boosts the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease.

Having a healthy brain is essential for productivity and positivity, which means keeping active to ensure we are getting the right balance of chemicals and hormones on a day to day basis. It has been proven that people who are more active are more effective workers. From a management perspective, who wouldn't want a happier harder working team? Even something as simple as getting up from your desk and walking around the office, or doing a few squats can promote this great feeling and increased productivity.

 

How much exercise do you need?

Australian Government guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week. You can make up 30 minutes over the day by combining shorter 10-15 minute sessions.

Exercise does not need to be extremely vigorous to be helpful for depression - a brisk walk each day can be beneficial.

In fact, 16 weeks of regular exercise has been found to be equally effective as antidepressant medication in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. A recent study found that an increase of physical activity from inactive to three times a week resulted in a 20% decrease of the risk of depression over a five year period.

You may struggle finding motivation, or staying motivated for exercise. Think about ways you can make exercise part of your daily routine and lifestyle. Choose something you enjoy, and ask your friends or family to help motivate you and keep you on track.

There are also many benefits associated with enlisting the help of a Personal Trainer. A Personal Trainer is there to provide that extra push and guide you through your exercise, and also support and educate you with your nutrition. Sometimes, they can just be that extra person to talk to when you need to get it off your chest. Vision Personal Trainers, in particular, are known for their higher levels of emotional intelligence and ability to extend empathy toward their clients.

 

Sources:

https://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/exercise-and-mental-health

https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/factsheets/exercise_depression.pdf?sfvrsn=8




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