It’s nothing new to hear that exercise is valuable to mental health.
Exercise can enhance quality of life and even be a therapeutic tool to work through mental illness. Even more importantly, it can serve as a proactive agent to prevent mental health problems from occurring.
When adults have around 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per day it has been shown to be an important factor in not only physical health, but psychological well-being as well.
Despite this we live in a day in age where many people practice a sedentary life style. It may be due to the fact that the majority of the world no longer needs to hunt and gather their food, and we have access to everything we need from the comfort of our homes.
If there’s any simple and immediate way to begin enhancing our well-being it’s to get up off the couch and start moving.
How can physical activity make you feel better?
Improves mood and affect
Exercise has been tied to brain changes that can improve our overall emotional state and mood. The benefits may be related to the release of chemicals such as endorphins or other neurotransmitters that are associated with elevated mood, such as serotonin.
Physical activity can be a buffer against stress as well as offset current stress and anxiety. When exercising we become engrossed in the activity and tend to be more mindful about what’s on our mind. It can also help people stay in the here and now, instead of ruminating on the past, or focusing on upcoming concerns.
Physical exercise can help us feel better about ourselves by feeling healthier and having an improved body-image. We may also feel a sense of achievement and success after completing our goal to exercise. Physical activity will help you look better, feel better, and improve your self-esteem.
Exercise has been suggested to improve sleep quality, and a good nights sleep is crucial to mental and emotional clarity. People who exercise may fall asleep faster, and sleep longer and deeper than individuals who don’t exercise. Though make sure not to exercise right before going to bed or you may be too energized to fall asleep. Get a routine of physical activity earlier in the day for these benefits.
Improves cognitive functioning
Exercise can improve our memory, attention, and thinking. It keeps our mind sharp, and there are protective factors against cognitive decline in old age. Even subtle activity, such as Tai Chi can be done at almost any age and improves overall health and well-being.
Make efforts to be more active in your life. Maybe it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or going for a walk with your friends. You can go swimming, ride a bike, or take the dog for a walk. Whatever you can do to begin incorporating some physical activity into your life is the key.
Photo credit: Ernst Moeksis