Exercise your mental health

12/07/2018

It’s no secret that exercising comes with a lot of physical benefits. But did you know physical exercise isn’t just good for our bodies, but can also improve our mental health and wellbeing?

Studies have shown that exercising on a regular basis can help you sleep better, treat mild to moderate depression, lower your stress levels, improve self-esteem and increase resilience.

According to the Department of Health, the recommended amount of exercise for adults is between 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. And the best part is, you don’t have to run a marathon or pump weights at the gym. You can incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine! Click here to find out how.

Exercise and sleep

People who exercise generally fall asleep quicker, sleep better and feel less tired during the day. A study found that single session exercises that are of moderate intensity, such as walking, have been proven to reduce the amount of time is takes to fall asleep and increase the length of sleep.

Exercise and depression

A recent international study revealed that exercise can prevent depression from emerging in the first place, regardless of age or geographical region. The study analysed data from 49 studies across the world, with a total of 266,939 participants, and showed that physically active people were at 15 per cent reduced risk of developing depression.

Research also suggests that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression. A minimum of 30 minutes a day may increase serotonin levels in the brain, an important chemical that regulates mood, appetite, sleep and other functions.

Exercise and stress

Symptoms of stress may vary from person to person. However, common symptoms include heavy breathing, headaches and migraines, tense muscles and an increased risk of infections and inflammatory conditions, as the immune system is weakened. Exercising is an effective way to relieve tension in the body and relax the muscles. Experts recommend aerobic exercise or mind/body types of exercise, such as yoga or tai chi, to combat stress.

Exercise and self-esteem

There is a strong link between physical exercise and positive self-esteem. Various studies have found that people who exercise regularly over a long period of time show a higher level of confidence and feel positively about their physical abilities and appearance.

When developing your long-term exercise plan, it is important to find a balance between the goals you want to achieve and being realistic about the amount of energy and time you have. Tracking your progress and celebrating your accomplishments will also help you stick to your plan.

Exercise and resilience

Research has found that people who are considered resilient, exercise regularly. According to a study published in 2012, people who have experienced anxiety or trauma can build resilience through vigorous exercise. This increases heart rate, breathing and perspiration – all of which are symptoms felt during periods of anxiety or trauma. By reliving these symptoms, the fear that they will trigger anxiety or trauma decreases.

Not only is the YMCA Father’s Day Fun Run a chance to get active in a fun and inclusive environment, all funds raised go towards YMCA programs that build resilience in young people. Register today!

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