How Does Physical Activity Help Improve Mental and Emotional Health?

Jul 9, 2021 |
physical activity

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Think about how you feel after working out. Sweaty and tired, perhaps, but over time you’ll experience the mood-boosting effects of physical activity. And sometimes these benefits show up right away, such as with the so-called “runner’s high.” It’s been scientifically proven that exercise can improve mood and mental health. That much is for sure. But what aspects of mental health can it help? And how does physical activity help mental health, exactly? 

  • What are ten benefits of physical activity?
  • Why is daily physical activity important?
  • What are some examples of physical activity?

In what areas does exercise help mental health?

Exercise has been found to have a positive impact on such varied conditions as depression, anxiety, and even ADHD. It can also help reduce stress.

Several studies show how physical activity can prevent mental health issues. One study showed that it is effective toward preventing depression from developing and another showed exercise to be effective in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

How does exercise help mood and mental health?

So how does exercise give our mood and mind all these fantastic benefits? Several factors come into play. One of these is that exercise increases a hormone in your body called serotonin. This mood-boosting hormone is found to be low in those with several mental health disorders. Working out also increases endorphins. These are directly responsible for boosting your mood. It also reduces levels of cortisone and adrenaline, both of which play a role in stress. 

In addition, the fact that you know you’re taking steps to improve your health may have a positive effect on mood and your outlook on things. It can enhance your sense of self-esteem as you begin to see the positive impact on health. It’s quite the confidence boost as well to know you’re sticking with something so good for you.

Exercise also indirectly affects mood and mental health in other ways. When you work out, you often get better sleep at night. And better sleep most definitely has an impact on your mood. It also increases your energy. 

And if you’re exercising outdoors, the fresh air and sunlight can boost your mood as well. 

What type of exercise is best for mental health?

The good news is that any type of physical activity is good for you! Anything from walking or yoga to running or HIIT is good. The best choice is something you enjoy doing and something that you can stick with. Choose an exercise you like. If you’re just starting, start low and slow to avoid burning out too quickly. Once you’re in the swing of things, increase until you’re at about five days a week of physical activity. Have a rest day or two built into your week, or you may choose to fit some very mild physical activity into your rest days, such as a leisurely walk.

For more Tips on fitness, health, and wellness, check out the other articles on our blog, The Beat here!

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