While it is common knowledge that exercising keeps the body fit and sound, much less is said about the mental health benefits of working out regularly. It has been reported that exercising regularly combats depression and anxiety. It also helps to improve sleep and one’s general mood. Therefore, mental health experts often prescribe regular exercise to people living with mental illness.
One of the significant benefits of exercising regularly is its ability to reduce anxiety and stress in the body. By exercising regularly, new neurons are produced in the hippocampus and other essential parts of the brain. This increased neurogenesis in the brain helps keep a person calm and decreases stress levels.
Similarly, exercising helps to release endorphins, which improves mental well-being. Physical activities relax and reduce tension in the body. Therefore, it is a natural and efficient way to treat anxiety.
Further, exercising reduces the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the American Psychiatric Association, ADHD involves symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. However, exercising regularly improves motivation, concentration, memory, and mood. This is achieved by increasing serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain.
Consequently, exercise helps to improve motor skills, achieving the same result as ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin. Also, regular exercise has been reported to improve cardiovascular function, which in turn reduces the symptoms and effects of ADHD.
A healthy sleep cycle improves one’s mental well-being. On that account, regularly exercising in the morning or afternoon improves sleep patterns. Specifically, indulging in yoga, planks, and stretching is known to be beneficial to sleep.
Exercising in gyms, fitness centers, or with a group of friends can help one access social support and companionship. According to the Mayo Clinic, a good social support network can assist in dealing with chronic illness and stressful situations. In contrast, the absence of social support often leads to isolation and loneliness. Therefore, working out or exercising with others helps in combating stress.
Exercise also helps to prevent the occurrence of panic attacks and similar disorders. It can help to free pent-up emotions, reducing one’s sense of fear and worry.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of anxiety experienced by people who have experienced traumatic events like sexual abuse, war, and natural disasters. Psychiatrists have suggested patients should pay close attention to their body while assisting the nervous system to become healthier, preventing the immobilization (showing no emotion) stress response.
Exercising usually distracts the brain by helping one to focus on the sensations in the body’s muscles and joints. Therefore, they effectively reduce the symptoms of PTSD. One should engage in activities such as jogging, swimming, or running, movement that works both the upper and lower limbs. Outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, and white water rafting can also play an essential role in reducing the symptoms of PTSD.
Increased self-esteem and self-confidence are vital in achieving sound mental health. Exercise naturally improves self-esteem and confidence when a person is fit and feeling their best physically.
Finally, working out and exercising can increase intelligence levels, boost brain power, and improve memory. Studies have shown that cardiovascular workouts create new brain cells that improve brain function. Exercise also strengthens the hippocampus, a part of the brain that, among other things, manages memory and learning. Research has also concluded that even moderate physical exertion like jogging and walking can improve creativity and mental vigor.