We all know how important exercise is for keeping us physically healthy. But did you know that exercise can also help to keep you mentally & emotionally healthy?
Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional well-being as well as lower rates of mental illness.
Taking up exercise seems to reduce the risk of developing mental illness. It also seems to help in treating some mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.
For example, for mild-moderate depression, research suggests physical activity can be as effective as antidepressants or psychological treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy. Exercise can also be a valuable addition to other treatment options.
Why does exercise make us feel better, mentally?
Often, people who exercise regularly do it simply because it makes them feel good. Exercise can boost your mood, concentration and alertness. It can even help give you a positive outlook on life.
The link between exercise and mental health is complicated. Inactivity can be both a cause and a consequence of mental illness, for example. But there are lots of ways that exercise can benefit your mental health, such as:
- The levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins, change when you exercise.
- Regular exercise can help you sleep better. And good sleep helps you manage your mood.
- Exercise can improve your sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem. People who exercise regularly often report how good achieving a goal makes them feel. Confidence boost is guaranteed!
- Exercise can distract you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences.
- It offers an opportunity to socialise and get social support if you exercise with others. That's why we are so happy to see ladies in our60 Day Confidence Challenge supporting each other and motivating for more regular physical activity!
- Physical activity can be an outlet for your frustrations.
- Exercise can reduce skeletal muscle tension, which helps you feel more relaxed.
The physical benefits of exercise are also important!
It improves your cardiovascular health and overall physical health.
This is also important because people with mental health issues are at a higher risk of suffering from chronic physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and asthma.
How often should I try to exercise?
If regular exercise is not already a part of your routine, you might be wondering how much you need to do to give your mental health a boost.
The really good news is exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or take a long time. Studies show low or moderate intensity exercise is enough to make a difference in terms of your mood and thinking patterns.
It's recommended that we should be active most days, aiming for a total of 2.5-5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, such as a brisk walk or swimming.
Alternatively, it's good to get 1-2.5 hours of vigorous physical activity per week - such as jogging, fast cycling, or a team sport. Or, you can combine both moderate and vigorous activities.
Remember that as long as you're trying to implement it in your daily routine in one way or another - you're already winning!
Any exercise is better than none!
Going for a leisurely walk, or activities like stretching and yoga, can also have huge benefits on your mind and body. Even doing housework like sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming can give you a mild workout.
It can be intimidating to start exercising if you haven’t done it in a while, but a plan can help you start and stick with it.
Your new exercise plan has a better chance of success if you:
- choose an activity you like, or have enjoyed in the past, that suits your fitness levels and abilities;
- start small – build up your activity gradually. Ideally, vary your activities so you don’t get bored;
- write your plan in your diary or on your calendar, so it’s part of your schedule;
- regularly revisit your exercise plans, and try something different if it’s not working out for you.
Some recent studies have found people report a higher level of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem, and a lower level of tension, depression and fatigue, after they have walked outside.
People who exercise outside also say they are more likely to exercise again than those who stay indoors.
And, people who exercise outside do it more often, and for longer, than those who work out indoors. Now, that's enough evidence for me to bring my next workout outside! What do you prefer?
How to be more active every day?
Make exercise part of your everyday activity. Try walking or cycling instead of using the car. Get off a tram, train or bus a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
Or spend some time walking your grandkids to school or when they visit. Get active around the house by doing some gardening, washing something or cleaning the windows (careful with that one, it's better to ask for assistance).
The important thing to remember is to try to move more and sit less every day! Small changes make the difference!
Looking to get to or stay at a healthy weight? Both diet and physical activity play a critical role in maintaining a healthy body weight, losing excess body weight, or maintaining successful weight loss.
You gain weight when you consume more calories through eating and drinking than the amount of calories you burn, including those burned during physical activity.
It’s important to balance calories. When it comes to weight management, people vary greatly in how much physical activity they need. You may need to be more active than others to reach or maintain a healthy weight.
To maintain your weight: Work your way up to 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week), of course, consult your physician if needed. Keep in mind that we are not by any means medical professionals!
Strong scientific evidence shows that physical activity can help you maintain your weight over time.
However, the exact amount of physical activity needed to do this is not clear since it varies greatly from person to person. It’s possible that you may need to do more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to maintain your weight or perhaps far less!
To lose weight and keep it off: You will need a high amount of physical activity unless you also adjust your diet and reduce the amount of calories you’re eating and drinking.
Getting to and staying at a healthy weight requires both regular physical activity and a healthy eating plan.
Reduce Your Health Risk
Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Being physically active can put you at a lower risk for these diseases.
Regular physical activity can also lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
If you have type 2 diabetes, regular physical activity can help you control your blood glucose levels.
Being active has the ability of improving your quality of life!
Strengthen Your Bones and Muscles
As you age, it’s important to protect your bones, joints, and muscles – they support your body and help you move.
Keeping bones, joints, and muscles healthy can help ensure that you’re able to do your daily activities and be physically active.
Doing aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening physical activity at a moderately-intense level can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age.
Hip fracture is a serious health condition that can have life-changing negative effects, especially if you’re an older adult. Physically active people have a lower risk of hip fracture than inactive people.
Also, weight bearing activities such as running, brisk walking, jumping jacks and strength training produce a force on the bones. These activities can help promote bone growth and bone strength and reduce the risk of fall-related injuries and fractures.
Muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights can help you increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength. This is important for older adults who experience reduced muscle mass and muscle strength with aging. Slowly increasing the amount of weight and number of repetitions you do as part of muscle strengthening activities will give you even more benefits, no matter your age.
Improve Your Ability to do Daily Activities and Prevent Falls
A functional limitation is a loss of the ability to do everyday activities such as climbing stairs, grocery shopping, or playing with your grandchildren.
How does this relate to physical activity? If you’re a physically active middle-aged or older adult, you have a lower risk of functional limitations than people who are inactive.
Improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls. For older adults, multicomponent physical activity is important to improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls or injury from a fall.
Multicomponent physical activity is physical activity that includes more than one type of physical activity, such as aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance training. Multicomponent physical activity can be done at home or in a community setting as part of a structured program.
There is so much interesting research that stresses the importance of regular physical activity, oh, and so many books & online articles! Lead a more active lifestyle to feel your absolute best! :)