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From Couch Potato to Happy Camper: How Exercise Boosts Your Mental Health


Most people know that physical activity & exercise is essential for good health and well-being, but the benefits of exercise extend far beyond just your physical health.

Exercise has also been shown to have significant mental health benefits, such as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, improving self-esteem, and reducing stress levels.


Reducing Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

One of the most significant mental health benefits of exercise is its ability to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety are common mental health conditions that can significantly impact a person's quality of life. It's not known exactly what causes depression. As with many mental disorders, a variety of factors may be involved, such as:

  • Biological differences

  • Hormones

  • Inherited traits/Genetics

  • Biochemistry

  • Environmental factors

Studies have shown that regular exercise can help to alleviate symptoms of these conditions by increasing the levels of endorphins in the brain, which are natural mood lifters. Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body in response to stress or pain, and they can help to reduce feelings of sadness, anxiety, and stress. Exercise also helps to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that in some cases exercise was as effective as medication in treating major depressive disorder. Isn’t that incredible?

The study followed 156 adults with depression and found that those who participated in aerobic exercise for 45 minutes, three times a week, had a significant reduction in their symptoms of depression. Another study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that exercising for just 10 minutes per day was associated with a lower risk of depression!

Improving Self-Esteem and Confidence

Regular exercise can also play a helping hand in improving your self-esteem and confidence. Exercise provides a sense of achievement and a feeling of control over your body and life. When you set a fitness goal and achieve it, you feel a sense of accomplishment that can carry over into other areas of your life. Exercise can also help to improve body image, which is often linked to self-esteem. When you feel good about your body, you're more likely to feel good about yourself in general.

A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that exercise was associated with improved self-esteem in both men and women. The study followed 116 men and women who participated in a 12-week exercise program and found that they experienced significant improvements in their self-esteem.

Reducing Stress

Exercise is a natural stress reliever. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Exercise also helps to reduce your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol is produced by the body in response to stress, and it can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression as well.

A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that exercise was associated with a significant reduction in stress levels. The study followed 178 adults who participated in a 12-week exercise program and found that they experienced a significant reduction in their stress levels. Another study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that employees who exercised regularly had lower levels of perceived stress and were less likely to experience burnout.

Improving Cognitive Function


Exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function, including memory, concentration, and attention. Exercise helps to increase blood flow to the brain, which can improve brain function. Exercise also promotes the growth of new brain cells, which can help to improve cognitive function.

A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that regular exercise was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. The study followed 1,646 adults over the age of 60 and found that those who engaged in regular physical activity had a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Another study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found that exercise improved cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.


Reducing Symptoms of ADHD

Exercise has also been shown to reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a common condition that affects both children and adults. Symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty paying attention. Exercise has been shown to help reduce these symptoms.

A study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that exercise was associated with a reduction in symptoms of ADHD in children. The study followed 45 children with ADHD and found that those who participated in regular physical activity had a significant reduction in their symptoms. Another study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that exercise improved attention and cognitive function in children with ADHD.

Improving Sleep


Exercise can also improve sleep quality! Regular exercise has been shown to not only help people fall asleep faster, but also to stay asleep longer. Exercise also helps to improve the quality of sleep by increasing the amount of time spent in deep sleep, which is the cycle of sleep which repairs muscles, strengthens the immune system, and leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning!

Conclusion

It is important to realize that the benefits of exercise are not limited to physical health. Regular exercise can have significant positive impacts on mental health as well:

  • It can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety

  • Improve self-esteem and confidence

  • Reduce stress levels

  • Improve cognitive function

  • Reduce symptoms of ADHD

  • and improve sleep quality

To experience the mental health benefits of exercise, it is recommended that individuals engage in regular physical activity including activities such as running, cycling, swimming, weightlifting, or any other type of exercise that is enjoyable and sustainable. Find one that you love to do, and reap the rewards!

Need help getting started?


Having a personal trainer can be extremely beneficial for individuals looking to improve their mental health through exercise. A personal trainer can provide the necessary support, accountability, guidance, and motivation to help you achieve your fitness goals and experience the mental health benefits that come with regular physical activity.

At PPF, I specialize in providing private personal training services that are tailored to your individual needs and preferences. I believe that exercise is a powerful tool for improving mental health and am dedicated to helping my clients achieve their fitness goals and experience the numerous mental health benefits of regular physical activity. Contact me today to learn more about my private and semi-private personal training services and how I can help you achieve your fitness goals.


Until next time,

Kyle


 

A quick note on depression:


If your symptoms of depression are causing problems with your relationships, work, or family and there isn't a clear solution you should see a professional. Talking with them can help prevent things from getting worse, especially if your symptoms last.


When to Get Emergency Help

Anybody thinking or talking about harming themselves should be taken seriously. It’s time for immediate action.

If you’re thinking about hurting yourself or attempting suicide, or if you know someone who’s in danger of suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

And if you’re having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, anytime day or night.

  • Call your doctor or mental health professional.

  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.

  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader, or someone else in your faith community.



References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Physical Activity and Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/mental-health/index.htm

  2. Harvard Health Publishing. (2018). Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

  3. Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., & Bosevski, M. (2017). Exercise and mental health. Materia socio-medica, 29(2), 100-106.

  4. Peluso, M. A., & Andrade, L. H. (2005). Physical activity and mental health: the association between exercise and mood. Clinics, 60(1), 61-70.

  5. Reed, J. & Buck, S. (2009). The Effect of Regular Aerobic Exercise on Positive-Activated Affect: A Meta-Analysis. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10(6), 581-594.

  6. Szabo, A., & Small, B. J. (2003). Exercise and mood: a selective review and synthesis of research employing the profile of mood states. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15(3), 239-262.

  7. Dishman, R. K., & O'Connor, P. J. (2009). Lessons in exercise neurobiology: the case of endorphins. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 2(1), 4-9.

  8. Alzheimer's Association. (2021). Physical Exercise. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/stages-behaviors/exercise

  9. Kamijo, K., Pontifex, M. B., O'Leary, K. C., Scudder, M. R., Wu, C. T., Castelli, D. M., & Hillman, C. H. (2011). The effects of an afterschool physical activity program on working memory in preadolescent children. Developmental science, 14(5), 1046-1058.

  10. Hillman, C. H., Erickson, K. I., & Kramer, A. F. (2008). Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(1), 58-65.

  11. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2021). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder-ADHD-001.aspx

  12. Lange, K. W., Reichl, S., Lange, K. M., Tucha, L., & Tucha, O. (2010). The history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults, 3-20.

  13. Kredlow, M. A., Capozzoli, M. C., Hearon, B. A., Calkins, A. W., & Otto, M. W. (2015). The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 38(3), 427-449.





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