Can Exercise Help Mental Health?
As Elle Woods once said, “Exercising gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t just shoot their husbands.” While Elle may not be a real person, her sentiments are highly true.
Scientists have studied the effects of exercise on the brain and found that light to moderate exercise three to five times a week can boost mood, self esteem, and ward off feelings of anxiety and depression along with the physical benefits. This is because of the way that the brain processes the chemicals released during exercise, called endorphins. Once these endorphins are released, they bond with the receptors in your brain that process pain. Because of this your perception of pain is lowered and a euphoric feeling soon follows. If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of giddiness and excitement after a run you’ve experienced endorphins in action! That “runners high” helps in the immediate to lessen the feeling of exhaustion in your muscles and can help to boost your mood!
By engaging those endorphins in your brain, you can help to lessen the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. The primary focus of exercising should be choosing movement that you enjoy. Activities like swimming, yoga, and dancing are low impact activities that still provide moderate exercising. Joining a class or a gym can be a great way to increase your activity, but the important thing to consider before joining is your personal comfortability. Do you enjoy working out with other people? A class or gym setting can offer that social interaction! If you’re a little nervous about being around other people (especially in a post quarantine world) grabbing a friend and going for a nature hike might be more your speed!
No matter what, adding more movement into your routine is always a good choice. Exercise strengthens your heart, improves and strengthens muscles, and lowers blood pressure. Combine those physical benefits with the psychological benefits, adding whatever type of movement you enjoy is an easy way to help yourself feel better!