Humans need regular physical exercise. It’s one of the best things that you can do for your health. With regular exercise, you can add a few years to your lifespan. Not only does it affect longevity, but it also positively affects your quality of life.
Exercise can work wonders for all, regardless of age and gender. Of course, knowing and working with your current fitness level is important.
Physical exercise seems to prevent, delay or at least ease the symptoms of many physical conditions. But what effect does it have on the human psyche? How does moving the body affect the brain? How are physical exercise and mental wellbeing related? In this article, we’ll explore and attempt to answer these questions.
Effect of Physical Exercise on Mental Wellbeing
Physical exercise affects mental wellbeing in various ways – both directly and indirectly.
The beneficial effects of exercise on mental wellbeing are sometimes overlooked. Here are 5 ways in which it impacts our mental wellbeing:
1. Boosts Mood
During exercise, your brain releases ‘feel good' chemicals like endorphins, endocannabinoids, dopamine, and serotonin, and these will help elevate your mood.
Endorphins interact with the brain's receptors to lessen feelings of pain. Additionally, endorphins induce a sensation of wellbeing in the body. Endocannabinoids are responsible for the calm euphoric feeling that you get after a workout. Dopamine mainly affects pleasure and motivation, and serotonin is responsible for feelings of happiness and optimism.
2. Raises Self-Esteem
The improvement in your fitness is also likely to lift your spirits. The hard work you put in is likely to bear results, and the mirror will reflect those results.
Every time you look in the mirror, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. You’ll notice a boost in your self-esteem.
Exercise also improves balance, flexibility, and physical function. Among the elderly, it reduces the chances of falls and the risk of injuries. It instills the elderly with renewed confidence in their abilities.
3. Breaking Unhelpful Thought Patterns
Exercise can also serve as a distraction from unhelpful thought processes.
If you’ve been trying to stop ruminating, physical exercise can serve as the tool that helps you do so. During a workout session, it’s easy to become so immersed that you forget the factors that were stressing you out, the things that were irritating you, the thoughts that were making you anxious, and the events that you were obsessing over. It’s like meditation in motion!
4. The Social Effect
Humans are social by nature, and healthy social relationships are necessary for maintaining and improving mental health.
Exercise can help you form new connections and friendships. These connections are not necessarily found or formed in formal group settings. You could befriend people you see on your daily walks. These days, there are plenty of social media exercise groups, and being part of such a group can provide motivation as well as a sense of connection.
5. Better Sleep
Sleep and mental wellbeing have a very close connection.
It’s a vicious cycle – the worse you sleep, the poorer your mental wellbeing, and the poorer your mental wellbeing, the worse you sleep.
Physical exercise can help you sleep better, and by extension, it supports your mental health.
You don’t even need extensive exercise to reap the benefits, just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (not too close to bedtime) is sufficient to help you snooze better.
No special equipment is required either. Bodyweight exercises are some of the tried and tested beneficial exercises that you can do just about anywhere.
Exercise can boost your mental wellbeing by improving your mood, raising your self-esteem, and breaking unhelpful thought patterns. It can also help you form new social connections and sleep better.
You don’t have to follow any particular set of exercises or a specific workout. Do whatever you enjoy the most – walking, biking, gardening, jogging, swimming, yoga, or anything that catches your fancy.
Switch around, or do more than one activity. Experiment with different things to see what you love most, but be consistent in getting at least some type of exercise every day.
If you suffer from any medical conditions, then seek your doctor’s advice before getting started on any particular activity or exercise regime. Start small and build up as you get more comfortable. Exercise your way to better mental health!
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