The impact of exercise on our mental health

The impact of exercise on our mental health Brighter Life Therapy

We are all likely aware of the importance of regular exercise. Especially with regards to the physical benefits, there is a long list as to why exercise is so advantageous!

Not only does it allow us to build muscle, tone our bodies and aid our metabolism, but it can prevent us from developing certain health complications such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Of course, exercise also promotes a healthy mental wellbeing. Researchers and health professionals alike have highlighted how exercise is preventative against various mental health issues.

Similarly, it can help ease symptoms of mental illnesses and lower their severity. But in what ways does exercise help, and how can we build an exercise routine from scratch?

How does exercise impact different mental health problems?

Of course, in general, exercise is very beneficial. But there are specific reasons as to why our mental health benefits, specifically in relation to various mental health problems.

  • The release of happy hormones – exercise releases endorphins and boosts serotonin levels. These are hormones that make you feel good and boost your mood.
  • Sense of achievement and boost self-esteem – A key part of common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression is low self-esteem. Engaging in positive behaviour like exercise provides a sense of achievement, boosting our self-esteem!
  • Distraction & mindfulness – To get even more out of exercise, you can very easily engage in mindfulness during exercise. e.g. focusing on your breathing, what your body is doing, how you feel etc. In doing so, you disengage from ruminating (associated with depression) worrying and stressing (associated with anxiety), lowering the severity of these symptoms.
  • Aids focus and concentration – Similarly to the above, it has been suggested that regular exercise can help those with ADHD, as it can promote maintaining focus and concentration.
  • Release physical tension in your body – When you are anxious or stressed, you can sometimes feel the physical tension in your body. By exercising and stretching, these tensions can be eased, as well as the emotions associated with them (i.e. the stress and anxiety).
  • Neuronal benefits – Exercise also aids the growth of new brain cells, improving cognitive abilities such as memory and general brain performance.
  • Helps us get some shut-eye! It also promotes a healthy sleep cycle. Exercise helps regulate our sleep body clock (or circadian rhythm), allowing us to feel more energised in the day and calm at night – helping us to sleep at a regular time.

Why do we sometimes struggle to exercise?

Sometimes we can struggle to be motivated to exercise, and there are a few possible reasons as to why this is:

  • Fatigued – When we’re very tired, of course one of the last things we want to do is exercise. However, it has been shown that regular exercise does boost energy levels. So if you feel you lack energy, beginning to exercise more often may likely help.
  • Physical pain – Of course if in physical pain, this can really discourage us to exercise. And actually, when in pain maybe exercise (or certainly vigorous exercise) is not the answer.
  • Fear of failure and hopelessness – If you are new to regular exercise, at the beginning you may find you are not as good at it as you may wish. Sometimes this can be disheartening, and people give up because of this.
  • Busy schedules and stress – It can be difficult when stressed to then then be obligated to workout, especially with a demanding schedule.

How can we build an exercise routine from scratch?

It can be tricky and daunting setting up and beginning a new exercise routine, and even harder to stick to sometimes. Here are a few tips to getting going:

  • Start small – having an intimidating routine is one of the reasons people end up avoiding it. Starting small e.g. walking everyday, can be a much easier commitment.
  • Schedule them when your energy levels are highest – Some people are more energised in the mornings, other’s in the evenings. You’re more likely to exercise when you have energy, so try to time it around that.
  • Do what you enjoy – Pick exercises that you enjoy! You can always make it a social activity too by exercising with others or joining exercise classes.
  • Reward yourself – Maybe try and do something you really enjoy after exercising as an incentive to stick to your exercise routine!

Can we help?

Of course, although exercise is very beneficial, sometimes it isn’t enough as a primary solution for difficulties with your mood. It may require more than an exercise routine, and support from a professional is need.

If you believe you require professional help, feel free to contact us. We provide fast access to CBT and counselling treatment, which you can read about here. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 0118 40 50 108, or by emailing info@brighterlifetherapy.co.uk.

You can also follow us on our Instagram and Facebook for more information about this topic and other mental health discussions.

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