We often think of physical benefits of exercise, but the mental benefits can be just as strong.
The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
Of all of the mental health problems in the United States, anxiety disorders are among the most common. Many people seek out therapy and medication in order to help themselves address their anxiety. However, far too many people don’t even consider the possibility of adding more exercise into their health regimens in order to effectively combat anxiety disorders. Exercise is not a miracle cure for anxiety, but it does genuinely help people who are struggling in this area.
The Mayo Clinic says that exercise can help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety for many different reasons, even though exercise is certainly not a complete cure. For one thing, many immune system chemicals can make depression more severe, and exercise can reduce these. Exercise produces a natural sense of euphoria through changes to the brain chemistry. Anxiety and depression are the result of specific brain chemistry problems, so it is as if exercise restores that balance. People can also psychologically cope with their depression more easily as a result of regular exercise.
The American Psychological Association is increasingly supporting the idea that exercise can be instrumental in addressing anxiety and elevating people’s moods in general. While the American Psychological Association is certainly not settled on why exercise seems to be so effective at helping depressed or anxious people, the evidence seems to be clear that it does.
CooperAerobics indicates that exercise can help people that are struggling with addictions as well. Replacing one habit-forming behavior with another is common for addicts, and choosing a healthy behavior instead of an unhealthy one can make all the difference for them. They will get all of the cognitive and emotional benefits of exercise, and they will also be able to get into the habit of something that helps them instead of hindering them.
Tony Ingram at Bboy Science outlines a lot of the research into the mental health benefits of strength training. It isn’t just aerobic exercise that can help people with depression and anxiety. Even strength training by itself can help depressed people. Since strength training and exercise in general can boost people’s self-esteem and help them sleep more effectively, some of the health benefits of exercise might be somewhat indirect with regards to the effects on mental health. Amenda Ramirez and Len Kravitz at UNM have found evidence that resistance training specifically can lead to significant mental health improvements.
The Overall Health Benefits of Exercise
People need to be able to effectively use their cardiovascular systems in order to strengthen them. If they never challenge their cardiovascular systems, they will not be able to endure the sorts of stress that they will inevitably experience with age. People who engage in regular cardiovascular exercise will manage to develop stronger hearts and clearer arteries as a result. People who raise their heart rates to the appropriate level for thirty minutes daily at least three to five days a week will be able to add years to their lives in the process.
People who exercise are at a reduced risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic. People who exercise on a regular basis are also less likely to develop heart disease or cancer. Regular exercise may even have cognitive benefits. Older people who exercised on a regular basis were less likely to lose their memories and other intellectual functions as a result of their exercise regimens, even if they only took forty-minute walks three times a week.
People will strengthen their bones if they engage in high-impact exercise, which can help ward off osteoporosis. They will also be able to maintain their youthful levels of muscle mass with age. People will naturally begin to lose muscle mass with age unless they exercise, which will put them at risk for experiencing dangerous falls. The loss of muscle mass may cost some people their mobility, at least in part. Individuals who exercise will be able to keep their bodies together more easily in general, which promotes healthier aging in addition to healthier living.
Exercise certainly helps burn calories, which is instrumental for the sake of weight control. Obesity is correlated with health problems like heart disease and cancer, so weight control through exercise can indirectly add years to a person’s life in its own right. The psychological benefits of weight control are also important to consider, particularly in a culture in which obesity is highly stigmatized. In that regard, exercise is exceedingly useful and important.
The Mind and Body Connection
Ultimately, the fact that exercise can lead to so many mental health improvements should not surprise anyone. It is widely accepted that exercise is tremendously beneficial for the body. The mind and the body are not separate on a biological level, even though people often think of them that way. When people exercise, they trigger the release of a certain set of neurotransmitters, which is inevitably going to influence a person’s mood. Exercise seems to cause many of the right changes on a chemical level.
People tend to think of their emotions as somewhat mysterious, but emotions are chemical in nature. Exercise influences a person’s brain chemistry, so it can influence their emotions just as surely. People are their brains and bodies. Their brains control everything that their bodies do, and everything that their bodies do will affect their brains. People who enjoy strength training and aerobic exercise will be able to achieve the maximum level of health benefits from exercise. However, even individuals who add slightly more exercise into their regular routines will still manage to gain some of the benefits.