Inactivity contributes to a laundry list of health issues, including obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and other lifestyle diseases. Have you ever thought about how it impacts your mental health? Most countries in the developed world are facing soaring rates of anxiety and depression. We may have modern life to blame for this – our diets are poor, the cost of living has risen, and thanks to the internet there is a growing issue of social isolation. Inactivity is something else that modern life has brought us to. The sun is shining, but you’d rather binge the latest Netflix original. It’s a pleasant day, but you’re caught up on social media.
You may have noticed that taking a long walk or enjoying a hike provides you with a temporary mood boost. Well, exercise is known to boost the body’s feel-good hormones. Suddenly, you’ve gotten a bit of exercise in and the problems in your life feel a bit more manageable. Yet, do you now follow up with more exercise? If you don’t, you’re missing out.
A simple exercise is enough to give you a break from your worries and quiet your negative self-talk. Additionally, people can benefit from a variety of activities. There are certain exercises known to be calming, while others are good for boosting energy. So, you can choose the right types of exercises for your mental health situation. Of course, there’s also the benefit that exercise has on your physical health. It ties in with your mental health because poor health can contribute to mental health problems.
Exercise isn’t just helpful for maintaining your mental health. It can actually be used to help improve a chronic mental illness. Exercise reduces the risk and severity of depression, and it helps you maintain your mental health as you get older. As far as mental health treatments go, exercise (in addition to pharmacological assistance) can help improve mild (to moderate) depression. It can also improve symptoms of anxiety.
How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?
It affects your brain directly. Exercising regularly increases blood supply and oxygen flow to your brain, which improves the health and wealth of your cells, neuron signaling, and beyond. The hippocampus is vital to mental health. It controls learning, memory, and the regulation of emotions. There have been numerous studies which find that exercise triggers the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus. Why does that matter? Well, the evidence is mounting suggesting that many of the mental health illnesses and conditions that we deal with are linked to neuron reduction in the hippocampus. In particular, depression.
How much exercise do you need to enjoy the benefits?
Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. You should be sure to include cardio, as well as strength training. You can tackle a 30-minute session five days a week, you will see improvement in no time, but typically at least 10 weeks before you see the great effect on your mental health. By that point, you will have built it into a healthy habit and it’s something that you are likely to continue. You will enjoy the benefit of improved mental health, as well as improved physical health and wellness.