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Does Exercise Benefit Mental Health?

Exercise – it does wonders for our body and keeps it in shape, both from the outside and from within. But did you know that there is a huge positive correlation between exercise and mental health? Studies have shown that higher physical activity is associated with stronger well-being and better quality of life (1).

One of the benefits of exercise on mental health is that it assists in improving your mood and boosts your happiness quotient. Physical activity has been shown to improve symptoms of a range of mental illnesses as well. Let’s look at some of the benefits of exercise on mental health.

Why does exercising make you feel better?

Many people don’t particularly enjoy exercise. However, the benefits of exercise for mental health are innumerable! Exercise increases the blood flow all in your body, including boosting blood flow to your brain. This increased circulation in the brain also increases the size of the hippocampus, a structure located in the brain that’s responsible for memory and mood motivation. A larger hippocampus has been shown to improve memory and make you feel calm and alert.

Over time, regular exercise can also reduce the risk of neurological diseases and protect the brain from the detrimental effects of aging (2). Exercise can also allay symptoms in patients with pre-existing medical diagnoses (3).

Another connection between exercise and mental health is that exercise helps release endorphins, the chemicals known to produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain (4). Endorphins are also involved in natural reward circuits and are released when we indulge in enjoyable activities, including drinking, having sex, and laughing. Moreover, the release of endorphins reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms of low self-esteem and social withdrawal (5). If you exercise regularly, you can reduce your stress, alongside calming symptoms of mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Improved sleep is also among the many mental benefits of exercise.

How to get started with exercise

If you want to reap the many mental benefits of exercise, now is the time to start working out. Exercise and mental health go hand-in-hand, so even the smallest step in this direction gives your body incredible rewards. Don’t worry if you’re completely new to exercising – here’s how you can start:

Identify a ‘why’:

Staying motivated helps you stay consistent. So, you have to find your inner motivation to exercise. Maybe you want to lose weight, improve your mood or just be more active. Once you figure out ‘why’, focus on attaining your goal, as that’s what’s going to help you stick to your workout routine.

Add variety:

Don’t restrict yourself to only one type of workout. If you’re not feeling like hitting the gym one day, try running instead. Maybe combine different activities, like yoga, kickboxing, zumba, jogging, and weight-lifting, to have fun with your routine. Opt for physical activities you enjoy, so that you consistently keep coming back to them.

Increase the intensity:

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is one of the best forms of exercise for increased circulation. Rather than being a single exercise, HIIT is a pattern of exercises wherein you alternate between high intensity exercises and short periods of rest and recovery.

Try an energy booster:

If you’re feeling really low on energy, and that’s interfering with your capacity to exercise, a mood-boosting supplement could help. Setu’s Ashwagandha: Boost Fizz is a good supplement if you want to exercise for mental health. Each effervescent tablet contains 500 mg of Ashwagandha extract, 400 mg of N-Acetylcysteine, and 40 mg of Vitamin C. Together, they calm your mind, relieve stress, boost your energy, and strengthen your natural defence system. When you feel healthy, you feel like exercising – which is why you shouldn’t discount the importance of health and nutrition.

How to be more active every day

In addition to regular exercise, it is also important to live an active lifestyle for your mental health. The best way to be more active in your day-to-day life is by making physical activity your priority. Here are a few quick tips for how to incorporate activity into your daily routine quite easily.

Try cycling to and from work instead of driving your car. Wherever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get off the bus one stop before your regular one, so you can walk the remaining distance home. If you’ve got pets, take them out for a long, leisurely walk. Stroll over to a local shop to buy groceries and essentials instead of ordering using an app.

These kinds of small changes get the blood pumping in your body and help you feel less lethargic. However, not all your physical activities need to revolve around household chores. You can also play your favourite music in your bedroom and dance like nobody’s watching! If you’re not into dancing, go for a walk around your neighborhood and take photos of all the beautiful sights. Join an upbeat workout class, like zumba or aerobics, with friends. Such small doses of activity do pay off – and your body will thank you in the long run.

FAQs

1) Is there any specific exercise for mental health?

There is no specific physical activity that works better for your mental health than others. However, certain studies have shown that higher intensity workouts result in higher endorphin levels and an overall better mood.

2) Is working out too much bad for you?

Movement is medicine when done within reasonable limits. Too much exercise can put excessive stress on your muscles and heart, which can leave you feeling tired and over-exerted.

3) How frequently do I need to exercise?

It is advisable to work out for a maximum of five times during the week. Each time you exercise, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity for optimal physical and mental health benefits.

4) What can I do to improve my mental health if I can’t exercise?

If you’re unable to indulge in strenuous activities, like aerobics or jogging, take a leisurely stroll, cycle around the park, or meditate. Journaling and breathing exercise are calming activities that can make you feel more grounded. Also, always make sure to get adequate sunlight daily, and if that’s looking difficult, take a Vitamin D supplement.

References:

  1. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-022-12590-6
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928534/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26917992/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3104618/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15518309/

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