We all know that exercise is great for your physique, heart health and longevity. Did you also know that staying fit has proven benefits to your mental health? Multiple studies have shown that regularly getting your heart rate up effectively reduces depression and anxiety, and can alleviate symptoms of ADHD. Periodic exercise also relieves stress, improves memory and quality of sleep, and boosts mood. If you suffers from chronic fatigue, try adding thirty minutes of cardio a few times a week to your routine, and you will be sure to feel more energetic throughout the day. Additionally, people who exercise regularly feel more positive about themselves and their lives, and what is more important than that? The great news is, you don’t have to go out and get an expensive gym membership or spend your next pay check on trendy work-out gear to start feeling better. Just getting your heart rate up consistently for thirty minutes a few times, a week can profoundly change your physical and mental well-being. You might start out going for a jog around your neighborhood or doing burpees and jumping jacks in your living room. Just turn on a thirty-minute episode of your favorite show and tell yourself to not stop moving until it’s over. Do this 2-3 times a week and you will already start to feel better.
Exercise and Depression
Multiple studies have shown exercise to be as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate depression in a significant number of cases. Maintaining a regular fitness regimen can also prevent patients from relapsing into a depressive state after treatment. The science behind why this works so well is based in the brain itself. Physical activity stimulates the brains metabolic functions thus promoting neural growth. Exercise also releases powerful endorphins which boost your mood and make you feel great. Chronic depression is associated with increased levels of inflammation throughout the body which Is counteracted by the anti-inflammatory effects of a consistent cardio routine. Overall, exercise helps individuals break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that perpetuate depression; focusing more on positive activities that feel good in the moment and insure a happier, healthier future.
Exercise and Anxiety
On one hand, anxiety is a necessary part of life. Most of us feel some level of anxiety when preparing for an exciting job interview or working towards an important deadline. This type of anxiety can be useful in moderation; motivating us to take the necessary steps towards reaching our life’s goals. For some, however, anxiety is the default and can be crippling. Imagine that same feeling of a racing heart, sweaty palms, and a mind full of anxious thoughts, but seemingly without reason and as a major portion of your every day life. For some who suffer with Generalized Anxiety, this is an all too familiar scenario. Thankfully, there are many effective treatments for the range of anxiety disorders. When added to an existing treatment regimen, exercise can be incredibly useful in reducing the harmful symptoms associated with anxiety. For instance, some patients report feeling a lot of tension and stress in their body. Exercise helps to relax the muscle tension by engaging the muscles in a useful way and relieving tension. The act of exercising itself can also help to interrupt the flow of anxious and worried thinking that contribute to the disorder. In a study examining the effects of mindfulness on anxiety, patients who exercised more reported enhanced relationships with the body which resulted in an improved relationship with the self. It turns out that a better relationship with one-self helps to be more mindful, ultimately reducing overall anxiety. Additionally, as seen in depressive patients, the release of endorphins during exercise aids in the reduction of anxiety.
Exercise and ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is marked by a difficulty with sustained concentration, distractibility, fidgeting, and restlessness among other symptoms. Many people with ADHD, young or old, have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time and often feel the impulse to stay in constant motion. While there are many treatments and medications that can help relieve some of these symptoms, exercise can also be majorly beneficial. In a study looking at the effects of exercise on patients with ADHD, those who exercised more showed improved concentration, increased motivation to complete prolonged tasks, enhanced memory, and a boost in mood. Focus and attention are linked to the neurotransmitter’s dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, all of which can be out of balance in ADHD patients. Regular exercise releases these hormones thus contributing to a more balanced brain chemistry. Current medications work on the same receptors as these hormones and can cause some harmful side-effects. Exercise has been shown to work on reducing the symptoms of ADHD without the uncomfortable or dangerous side-effects associated with medication.
Exercise and Chronic Stress
Even if you are not grappling with a mental illness, most people have far too much stress in their lives. Prolonged stress can lead to heart disease, chronic pain, migraines, and has a negative impact on mood and energy levels. Exercise relieves muscle tension which reduces head aches and back pain. Chronic stress is also associated with a regularly increased heart rate. Having a fitness routine strengthens the heart which lowers average resting heart rate thus improving heart health. Lifting weights and engaging your muscles in work on a weekly basis causes muscle relaxation, thus reducing back pain and tension headaches. When you can feel freer and more comfortable in your body, you are able to offer space for a more relaxed mind.
It’s near impossible to argue with the fact that working on yourself in any capacity feels good. Exercising may not always feel great in the moment, especially when you are first starting out, but with all those endorphins rushing through your body you are bound to get that natural post-work-out high. Keeping a consistent regimen of physical activity will overall boost your confidence, improve your mood, help you sleep better, reduce your stress and anxiety, and give you more energy and focus. If you decide to get your exercise in a gym or fitness class, you might even make some friends equally dedicated to self-improvement who will help keep you accountable to stay on track.