Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health
We all know that exercise helps to improve our physical health, but more often than not, those who exercise regularly will tell you about the profound positive impact that exercise has on their mental health.
When we exercise, our body creates a number of pleasure chemicals, including endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Research shows that you only need one 20-25 minutes of mild exercise to help induce those positive chemicals that assist us to reduce stress, get a better night sleep, improve your memory, and boost your overall mood.
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
Statistically, one in 16 people, aged between 16 and 85 in Australia, are currently experiencing depression while one in 7 is currently suffering from anxiety. Research suggests that exercise can treat mild to moderate anxiety and depression as effectively as medication, but without the side effects. Those endorphins chemically make us feel good, but exercise can also be a good distraction for those negative thoughts that fuel depression, and can disrupt the flow of worrying thoughts in anxiety.
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.
After a traumatic experience, our bodies sometimes get stuck in the immobilising stress response. By focusing on our bodies during exercise, and how our muscles and joints feel, this cycle can be interrupted. Some of the best exercises to help with PTSD are walking on the beach, running, swimming, and dancing. Outdoors activities have also been shown to reduce symptoms of PTSD.
While exercise can have a real benefit on diagnosed mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety, PTSD and ADHD there are more subtle benefits on our mental and physical health, including:
Higher self esteem
Reduce chances of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, strokes and some cancer.