There is a wealth of research that demonstrates that the mental and emotional benefits of exercise are as significant as the impacts on our physical health.
Exercise such as jogging, walking, swimming and dancing have been found to increase the blood circulation to the brain, boosting the supply of oxygen and other vital nutrients which allow it to function at its best. This provides many cognitive benefits (such as improving memory and problem solving skills), but through our limbic system exercise also triggers the release of various chemicals such as endorphins – to help us feel good, boost our mental energy, relieve pain and stress, and assist with regulating mood.
Plenty of studies (like this one) show that approximately fifteen minutes of exercise every day can reduce the risk of major depression.
Advantages of Exercise: Mentally, Emotionally and Socially
The benefits of exercise are not just limited to our physical wellbeing and mental health, but also for our emotions. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise has a positive impact on our social interactions, and can combat low self-esteem, as well as help with developing self-efficacy so that you are better able to deal with any mental health challenges.
When it comes to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, exercise can alleviate thes symptoms. It has also been discovered that physical activity can be highly beneficial for individuals suffering from schizophrenia.
Individuals on anti-psychotic medication may notice serious side side effects such as weight gain and obesity. A recent study confirmed that exercise not only helps in preventing obesity, but schizophrenic patients also experienced increased fitness levels, exercise tolerance, energy levels, reduced blood pressure, and increased their upper body and hand-grip strength through regular exercise.
What Sort of Exercise?
Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic is defined as “relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen”; so aerobic exercise is any form of exercise that boosts both breathing and heart rate, to increase the amount of oxygen in the body. Aerobic exercises may include jogging; cycling; using a skipping rope; or boxing.
Yoga: Yoga stretches the body and releases tension. It also helps the individual to be more present in their surroundings, instead of ruminating and engaging in negative thinking. Yoga is also deeply connected to meditation, which is a technique commonly recommended for people grappling with mental health challenges like anxiety. The breathing and relaxation techniques used in yoga, in combination with mobilising your body through a series of postures, helps to improve sleep and aid with stress-relief.
Pilates: Similar in many ways to yoga, pilates brings together physical exercise and mental health because it focuses strongly on the connection between the body and the mind.
Walking, Running, Swimming, Cycling: These types of exercise are helpful for reducing stress and tension. It’s also a great time to process life events and other things on your mind with a little more space and freedom.
Anaerobic Exercises: Anaerobic exercise is a type of exercise that breaks down glucose in the body without using oxygen; anaerobic means “without oxygen”. In practical terms, this means that anaerobic exercise is more intense, but shorter in duration than aerobic exercise.
Anerobic exercise such as sprinting, weightlifting and high intensity interval training (HIIT) may assist with boosting self-esteem and confidence, and developing social and distraction skills.
Mood stabiliser medications available on prescription aim to increase the amount of ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brains, to help relieve pain and stress. Exercise delivers the same results, and is a natural way of alleviating the symptoms of mental health conditions!
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.