How to Exercise Your Way to Mental Health

Published on: 15 Jun 2015
How to Exercise Your Way to Mental Health

Sure, exercise can help improve your physical & mental health, while making you look & feel better than a sedentary lifestyle ever could, but it’s a lot of hard work.

It’s not easy to exercise your way to mental health. And we totally get it; you don’t need to tell us about the difficulty involved in finding the motivation to do some 50 sit-ups in the morning, or several sets of 42 squats right after work. But, you won’t get to experience all of the benefits of exercise without actually exerting yourself on a regular basis. Indeed, it is a harsh reality.

As you know, there are vast benefits to exercise, the most obvious one being how it physically transforms our bodies. But, one of the less apparent bonuses of consistently engaging in a sweat session is how it makes us think and feel. As we begin working out, we can document the evolution of our physiques in pictures. But the way exercise impacts our brains is a much harder thing to track. The trick is keeping a day-to-day diary. Once you start logging how you feel, you’ll realize how much faster and sharper you are on days that you exercise as opposed to days that you don’t.

One of the greatest paradoxes of physical fitness is that for you to feel good, energetic, and alert, you must be willing to exhaust yourself on a regular basis.

Exercise boosts energy and promotes sleep.

Once exercise becomes a part of your life, you will begin to notice that you have a lot more energy than you used to and are by far less easily fatigued. That’s because exercise, especially if it’s cardio, increases the heart rate and oxygenates the muscles making them stronger and more enduring. But exercise also reduces your resting heart rate, thereby decreasing blood pressure and improving the quality of your sleep, which, as you can imagine, is immeasurably important for optimum mental health. Because depression often manifests as lethargy and lack of energy, exercise is a natural way to boost your drive. Plus there’s all the adrenaline that makes your feel recharged and ready to take on the world.

Exercise relieves stress and tension.

Now, we’ve already told you about what stress does to your body, therefore, you should know that it’s in your favor to channel it into a productive and overall healthy activity, like physical exertion. One of the most difficult to deal with symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD is negative thinking. Exercise is a great way to distract yourself from your thoughts, while focusing on something real and tangible, like your body. And although a 25-minute workout won’t magically fix every problem you may be facing, you will find it easier to objectively evaluate your situation and come up with a plan of action.

Exercise nourishes the brain.

When you exercise, the increased blood flow to the brain helps create new brain cells, which can improve memory as well as learning ability. Furthermore, this process helps protect you from the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as other conditions that can lead to cognitive decline by turning off some genes while turning on others. And, for added incentive, you should know that exercise activates neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and others, which are known to play a role in mood control. So, if you are suffering from depression, exercise is the most effective natural medicine you can possibly take without any of the side effects associated common of western medicines.

As you can see, there are numerous reasons for why you should exercise your way to mental health.

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Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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