“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” – John F. Kennedy.

Exercise is an integral part of our lives. Exercise is known to be very essential and beneficial when it comes to physical fitness but exercise also plays an important role when it comes to mental health. Inactivity can both be a cause and consequence of mental illness and hence it is important to recognize that exercise does not only help to make yourself physically fit but also to improve one’s mental health.

A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE ON MENTAL HEALTH:

Exercise not only helps deal with physical symptoms but also with the ones related to mental health. Exercise helps in dealing with and combating depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, PTSD and other such disorders:

Exercise helps in releasing endorphins in the body which help in improving one’s mood, energize one’s spirits and makes one feel good and healthy.

Exercise helps in reducing the risk of illnesses and helps in maintaining or combating Lung Disease, Cardiovascular Health, Blood Pressure, Cancer, Osteoporosis, Diabetes, Dementia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Stroke, etc.

Exercise works as an antidepressant, it initiates changes in the brain, it promotes neural growth, reduces inflammation, and promotes new activity patterns that helps an individual feel calm and maintains one’s overall well-being.
Exercise also helps with Anxiety, it helps in reducing stress, relieving tension which helps in promoting physical and mental health and energy.

When one engages in regular exercise, it also improves their self-confidence and self-esteem. Regular exercise helps manage stress, anxiety, tension and maintains physical health too which makes one feel good about themselves and gives them the confidence to deal with the situations in their life.

Regular exercise helps one with maintaining a regular sleep cycle. Exercising everyday makes one tired and helps them to fall asleep on time. Irregular sleeping pattern, disturbed sleep and insomnia is one of the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other such disorders and exercising helps in maintaining and bringing the sleep cycle back on track.
Exercise is known to pump blood to the brain, which aids one to think more clearly. Exercise also increases the size of the Hippocampus, a part of the brain which is responsible for memory.

Exercise stimulates and helps in increasing the connections between the nerve cells in the brain which also plays an important role in improving one’s memory and shields the brain from disease and/or injury.

Exercise can prove to be an outlet for dealing with and productively removing one’s frustrations. Exercise acts as a distraction, which aids one to find some time to break the cycles of negative and irrational thoughts that are caused due to Depression and Anxiety.

Regular exercise is one of the most efficient ways to reduce and manage the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Exercise improves concentration, memory, excessive energy, motivation and mood. When one engages in physical activity, it immediately boosts the brain’s Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin levels which all have an effect on one’s attention and focus.

Exercise helps in building a stronger Resilience. When one deals with emotional or psychological challenges, exercise helps one to cope in a healthy and productive manner instead of resorting to substances like alcohol, drugs or other negative and unproductive behaviors that may increase one’s symptoms further.

Exercise helps in maintain energy throughout the day, boosts overall mood and one’s immune system, and helps in socializing and gaining social support.

POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  1. At least 30 mins of moderate to intense physical activity every day is essential. If you are not used to exercising, start with 10-15 minutes and gradually increase the amount of time spent exercising. Exercising in shorter intervals of 10-15 minutes multiple times in the day would also work.
  2. Practicing mindfulness and focusing on your breathing while exercising also reduces stress and improves one mental health.
  3. If one cannot manage to go to the gym or join any classes, walking for 45 – 60 mins 5-6 days a week is best and an affordable option to get started.
  4. Come up with ways to make exercise a part of your daily routine and lifestyle.
  5. Choose a mode of exercise that you enjoy.
  6. If you own a dog then take them for a walk.
  7. Combine your exercise routine with a healthy diet for better results and improving your motivation and energy.
  8. Schedule exercise for the part of the day when you feel the most energetic.
  9. Reward yourself.
  10. Make exercise a social activity, ask your friends or family to join you or motivate you to keep you on track.
  11. If you are exercising engage in light exercise like yoga and meditation.

“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigour” – Marcus Tullius Cicero.