Many of us recognize that exercise is great for our physical health and can help us lead more productive and longer lives, but we often forget the incredible impact that physical movement and exercise can have on our mental wellbeing.
There is no question that working out --even a short walk or jog-- is great for our physical health. While we are exercising we often feel good about ourselves and after we finish we can feel a real sense of accomplishment. But once the workout “high” from the endorphins goes away, we don’t always realize that our workout is still benefiting our overall mental wellness.
Exercise can have long lasting impacts on our self-perception, improve diagnosed mental health disorders and help prevent the expression of mental health disorders to which we may be genetically predisposed. A study from Sharma et al. found that “[e]xercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function [Callaghan, 2004]. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal [Guszkowska, 2004].”1
During today’s challenging times, it is more important than ever to ensure we are doing everything we can to strengthen both our mental and physical fitness. Fortunately, a consistent 30 minutes of exercise a day can go a long way to improving both.
Dr. Gingell reiterates this point by stating, “increasingly robust evidence suggests that exercise is not only necessary for the maintenance of good mental health, but it can be used to treat even chronic mental illness. For example, it is now clear that exercise reduces the likelihood of depression and also maintains mental health as we age. On the treatment side, exercise appears to be as good as existing pharmacological interventions across a range of conditions, such as mild to moderate depression, dementia, and anxiety, and even reduces cognitive issues in schizophrenia.”2
There is mounting evidence that physical exercise is both a preventative measure for mental health disease as well as a potential treatment for those suffering from mental health disorders. In times of increased stress, see if physical activity helps you clear your mind and improve your overall feeling of wellbeing!