5 Ways Exercise Helps Your Mental Health
Depression is now the world’s leading cause of ill health and disability.
Anything that heats your body up, gets your heart beating faster and makes you breathe heavier can have a real impact on mood and stress and in some cases be more effective than antidepressants.
How does exercise help improve your mental health?
Exercise Puts You in a Better Mood
‘Runners high’ is easily dismissed if you’ve never experienced it and, let’s face it, on paper, it does sound kind of hooey, but it’s true! It exists! And it’s not just something experienced by those regularly pounding the pavement or treadmill. Whatever your exercise of choice, you’ll come out of your workout in a more positive mood than when you went into it.
Science agrees. CNN ran an interesting article last year about how exercise increases the body’s production of two neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine. These feel-good chemicals along with dopamine play an important role in regulating a person’s mood. Although you might associate the ‘runner’s high’ more with err...well, running, it’s not just aerobic exercise that releases feel-good chemicals as it happens with yoga, hiking and weight-lifting, too.
Exercise Helps to Reduce Stress
Stress doesn’t just affect us mentally; it has physical attributes, too, often felt as muscle tension or fatigue. It’s hard to relax if you’re feeling wound up, restless or tight.
Fortunately, exercise releases the brain’s natural painkiller, endorphins. These work to reduce tension in the body. Remember our friend norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter? This chemical also helps change how our brain responds to stress.
All that mental crap you were dealing with before you hit the gym? You'll often fund it greatly reduced post-workout.
Exercise Helps Clear your Head
Modern life doesn’t give us much chance to switch off. There’s always a screen that needs swiping, a Netflix show that needs bingeing or a chore that needs doing. Not to mention the horror show on TV news right now: 100,000 ways to die in a nuclear holocaust. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, to feel your mind running a hundred miles a minute making it hard to focus, to get things done, to see solutions to problems.
Exercise is great for helping to improve mental focus. The harder you work the easier excess thoughts will slip away. You start focusing on that next kilometre, that next deadlift, that next length. And when the brain does drift off, there’s barely room enough for one thought at a time.
Tire the body out and the brain will follow.
Sonima.com has an interesting post that explains how exercise can create new neurons in the brain which helps to clear the brain-fog and help to promote a more balanced, positive mental outlook. A Harvard Psychology Professor wanted to investigate her own “runners high” and created an experiment that appears to confirm that those who exercised for 30 minutes in the morning, were better equipped to overcome sadness later in the day.
Exercise isn’t just an investment in the physical body, but it the mind, too.
Exercise Reduces The Risk of Depression
The Royal College of Physicians found that keeping active reduces the likelihood of experiencing the symptoms of depression.
Which is pretty amazing if you think about it. Mental illness can seem so arbitrary, something that just happens up in the brain, but with exercise, it’s something that can be reduced, even prevented in some cases. If you suffer from mild-depression in particularly, then working out is something proactive you can do to feel better and when you do that you’re literally creating new patterns in the brain to help boost your mood.
In support of the report by the Royal College of Physicians, researchers at University College London found that going from zero to three exercise sessions a week reduced the risk of depression by around 20%. And a joint study between King’s College London and Australian researchers found that even a single session of exercise could prevent 12% of cases of depression.
Living with depression can be exhausting, but one side effect of exercise can help boost energy and motivation. In November of last year, The Metro reported on a year-long survey by England Athletics who found that 74% of runners had experienced an improvement in their mental health and wellbeing from running. And it wasn’t just the physical elements of the exercise but the friendships and camaraderie, too: being part of a running community.
Which just shows that sometimes it’s okay to leave Taylor Swift behind (no matter how good your streaming service and playlists are) to interact with actual human beings.
Exercise Helps You Have a Better Night’s Sleep
It’s something of a catch-22: poor mental health can lead to poorer sleep quality. Poor sleep quality generally exacerbates mental health issues, but there’s a lot that can be done to aid sleep quality like making sure your bedroom is quiet, cool and dark and turning off electronic devices at least an hour before bed, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime and, of course, taking exercise, too.
Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature and scientists believe that it may be the drop in temperature later that helps promote sleep. (This works best if you exercise in the afternoon or later — but not too much later). What's more, physical exercise increases the time we spend in the most restorative phase of sleep: deep sleep. This will improve the quality of your sleep, and, of course, the more we exercise, the more tired we are and the more likely to go to bed earlier. Sleep is vital to helping us cope with the challenges that we encounter throughout the day. When we feel like we can't cope with those challenges, that's when our mental health can suffer.
EarHugz Supports MIND
You’ll already know how great EarHugz are at protecting your headphones from sweat damage during exercise, but you may not know that with every pair purchased £1 is donated to the Mental Health Foundation.
Exercise is a great way to protect your mental health and EarHugz are a great way to protect your premium headphones and colour your sound.