The benefits of exercise on your mental health
I know what you may be thinking, “Exercise? No thank you. I would much rather stay in bed watching movies and eating my favourite snacks than put on a pair of trainers and go for a run” – and I get it. Exercise can seem like a chore at the best of times, let alone when our mental health is suffering. A common misconception is that people only exercise to gain muscle or to trim down their waistlines to get ‘summer body’ ready. However, though the list of benefits for doing exercise is a lengthy one, one of the most important is the profoundly positive impact it has on easing symptoms of mental health disorders, such as anxiety, and depression.
Something to remember, is that exercise isn’t all about running 10km as fast as you can, or lifting the heaviest weights to bulk up. Sometimes it’s simply walking 10 minutes from the top of your road to the bottom, walking to the shop in the morning to pick up the daily newspaper or doing a ten-minute stretching video on YouTube. Anything that involves moving your body. But why is it so good for you?
When you take part in some form of physical activity, your heart rate increases and consequently so does the blood flow to your brain. As a result, your body releases the chemicals dopamine and endorphins, also known as the ‘happy hormones’. These hormones help to reduce feelings of stress, anger, anxiety and depression in day-to-day life. Although the recommended time period for physical activity is 30 minutes a day to see clear results, doing as little as 10 minutes a day has also proven to show small improvements in your mental health and mood.
However, exercising can feel rather uninspiring and repetitive. Since the closure of gyms due to the pandemic, I’ve used lockdown as a reason to find creative ways to make exercising enjoyable, whilst also gaining positive mental benefits – and here’s what I’ve come up with:
3 ways to make exercise more exciting and gain the mental benefits:
In all honesty, I wish less focus was placed on exercise being a way to change your physical appearance and more emphasis driven towards the positive impact it has to improve our mental wellbeing.
Sometimes, you may find it hard to get out of bed in the morning and exercise will be the last thing on your ‘to-do’ list. With lockdown restrictions being gradually lifted, getting outside for some fresh air and moving your body will guarantee to help you feel refreshed, and being able to meet up with friends and exercise together may be the start of a new found love of physical exercise.