The Impact of Physical Activity on Mental Health

The Impact of Physical Activity on Mental Health

“Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you.” That adage has been around for ages, yet doctors and researchers are continuing to learn more about just how true it is. We know that exercise has major benefits for our physical health. Just 30 minutes a day is enough to help us have stronger hearts, muscles and lungs. We now know that it also has a substantial impact on our minds too.

Exercising releases endorphins and other chemicals that tell our brains that all is well. These are our feel-good hormones. Getting our blood pumping also helps us alleviate stress, both because it is a good distraction and because it can improve the neuroendocrine system that is in charge of the body’s stress response.

A seven-year-long study was recently published in the journal BMC Medicine. Nearly 153,000 people were studied for almost a decade to get a handle on their physical and mental health. The study shows that those who saw their physical strength improve or stay the same were almost half as likely to experience depression and anxiety. Researchers concluded that physical exercise is so beneficial that it could be considered among treatment options for those with anxiety and/or depression.

Now that we know what good comes from moving our bodies, the question of exactly how to do it becomes more important. We have a few tips to consider as you embark on your strength journey.

- Do what you enjoy. Forming habits for exercise is much easier when you actually like the kind of workout you are doing.

- What’s stopping you? Think about why making your own physical and mental health a priority has been difficult in the past. Work to remove those barriers and be gentle with yourself when you face setbacks.

- Think outside the gym. For many of us – especially during long stretches of lockdowns – going to the gym just isn’t practical or even possible. Good exercises for your body and mind can come from gardening, dancing, going for a bike ride, walking the kids to school or shooting hoops with your buddies.

- Set goals that will be fun, rewarding and possible for you to achieve!