The role of Fitness in Mental Health
“Exercise is the most under used form of anti-depressant”
When we think of taking part in exercise we generally think of what it will do for our shape, weight and physical health and well-being. But, as the saying suggests, ‘healthy mind in a healthy body’, proper exercise is also excellent for our brains.Research has shown that exercise can improve everything from stress and depression to memory and learning ability.
By improving blood flow to the brain, exercise improves mental focus and concentration.
Regular exercise can delay and prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by decreasing the levels of chemicals that affect the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions and memories.
A further study shows that regular, moderate exercise boosts learning ability by increasing the number of neurons in the hippocampus (a brain structure that’s crucial to memory).
Physical exercise is also linked to lower anxiety levels, as it increases the levels of the anti-depressant neurotransmitter GABA, produced by the Thalamus
Exercise also lowers mental fatigue significantly compared to a sedentary lifestyle, thanks to increased levels in the brain of energy boosting mitochondria.
Exercise causes the release of feel good hormones from your brain, making you feel good, boosting your self-esteem, helping you concentrate, making you look and sleep better. By inducing good sleep, exercise can make you more productive in every way, as after a good nights sleep we wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.
Leading an active life can improve your feelings of self-worth and foster confidence and give you a sense of purpose.
A simple exercise session can boost your mood for several hours afterwards (you may have heard the term ‘Runners High’) It is also great for preventing AND treating anxiety and can be used in conjunction with other treatments. In this regard, exercise for anxiety has shown results comparable to psychotherapy. It is often overlooked by mental health professionals and patients alike as an important part of treatment. The importance of exercise as a treatment may not be realised and it may be under used or completely ignored. And it shouldn’t eat into your busy lifestyle; 3 half hour sessions per week is sufficient for all these benefits.Exercise improves the part of the brain that controls motivation and mood, seen in response to stress and memory. Interestingly, exercise adherence in psychiatric patients is comparable to that of the general population.
To sum up the Mental Health benefits of exercise;
- Improved productivity
- Happier outlook on life
- More Relaxed
- Less tension
- Less stress
- Less mental fatigue
- Improved sleep
- A sense of achievement
- Focus in life
- Less anger and frustration
- Healthy appetite
- Better social life
- Having fun
So, get out and walk, preferably in nature, or get down to your local gym. It’s only one and a half hours per week, a very worthwhile investment for the results awaiting you.
(Consult with a Fitness Professional so you can be confident you are doing the right kind of exercise for you, and check with your Doctor before beginning an exercise routine)