Exercise For Mental Health

If you’re reading this, you might be someone who has been dealing with a decline in your mental health and wants to get your life back on track. We get it, especially if this is your first time dealing with the inevitable ebbs of being human. Should you go to therapy? Talk to your doctor? While these are both fundamental questions you need to ask yourself, maybe you’re unable to afford therapy, perhaps the closest appointment you can get with your doctor is months away, or maybe neither of these ideas are appealing. One of the most popular ways people work to improve their health is by exercising.


Why Exercise is Important to Your Mental State


People who have negative mental health tend to have physical health problems that accompany them. For example, those who have depression are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like heart disease. On the flip side, many individuals who have chronic illnesses can develop anxiety and/or depression.

Depression is prevalent among those who have:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • HIV/Aids

Researchers have found that in those who have a mental illness such as depression, there was a change in bodily functions such as:

  • Abnormal stress hormones
  • An increase in inflammation
  • Changes in circulation and heart rate

If you’re someone who suffers from chronic illness, developing a mental illness can make coping harder. There is a higher mortality rate among individuals who have depression and if you have a coronary disease having depression can cause your recovery to be longer. Exercise has been shown to not only be good for improving your physical health, but it also has a positive effect on mental health as well. Exercise has been shown to decrease the prevalence of depression, and anxiety, and improve self-esteem. In a study done on individuals with a schizophrenia diagnosis, exercise was shown to reduce blood pressure, improve weight control, and increased fitness levels over a three-month period.

Exercising regularly has many benefits for your body and mental state. The added perks of moving your body regularly are:


1.) Improved sleep


Those who exercise for 30 minutes a day can improve their quality of sleep. The elevation in your heart rate creates a brain process that helps you sleep better at night.


2.) Lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases


Exercise lowers your blood pressure, which is one of the higher risk factors associated with heart disease, and slows down heart rate. We all know that moving your body helps with weight control; lessening the strain and pressure on your heart which can contribute to increased risk of stroke.


3.) Reduced cholesterol


By having moderate physical activity, your HDL cholesterol, often called “good” cholesterol is raised, while your LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, is lowered.


4.) Increased energy


Exercise increases your energy levels because as you exercise, your body’s naturally occurring hormones called endorphins increase, sending a boost of energy throughout your body. Having a daily workout routine also betters your heart health which increases your endurance, allowing you to feel less sluggish throughout the day.


There are also non-physical benefits to exercise such as raising your self-esteem and improving social withdrawal. Bettering your mental health and physical state- if that’s your goal- can instill a sense of confidence, making you feel better. Exercise can also improve your memory, causing your body’s endorphins to help you concentrate and focus.


Finding the Right Fit – Types of Exercises

The key to effectively utilizing exercise for your mental health is by doing things that you like or are interested in. If you’re someone who does not exercise often, starting out with smaller fitness goals can be the answer to how you stay consistent with exercise. Walking around your neighborhood, or even your home, can help improve your mental stability.

If you have a chronic illness, it is suggested that you have a conversation with your healthcare professional before building a fitness routine. However, there are recommended ways for individuals with chronic illnesses to exercise. If you have arthritis, such as the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis, flexibility exercises can help relieve the stiffness of joints and keep your body moving. Those who have diabetes may benefit from walking as it helps improve glucose levels.


Individuals with chronic pain can see an improvement in pain management by focusing on exercise that emphasizes flexibility and endurance. Aerobic exercises such as biking, dancing, yoga, etc can help among those experiencing anxiety by releasing muscle tension and diverting anxious thoughts. Another added benefit is the increase in neurochemicals such as serotonin which are increased when your heart rate speeds up as you move your body.


If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, here are a few tips:


1. ) Try out something new


If there’s ever a time to try and see what fitness routine works for you, it’s now. Try something new. Even if it means signing up for swimming classes, or even trying out that new pilates class everyone has been talking about.


2.) Work out with friends or family


If its your first time exercising it can be a little intimidating. Working out with a friend or family member can help you get more comfortable with moving your body. This is also preferable if you have a hard time staying accountable by yourself.


3.) Focus on your heart


The best thing that you can do to get started on working on your mental balance is to focus on getting your heart rate up. Whether this is walking around your home, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, these little changes can make a big impact on your health over time.

Your mental health is important, and one of the most cost-effective and simple things you can do to improve not only your mental stability but your physical as well is to move your body. If you suffer from chronic health conditions, dealing with not only your illness but your mental health as well can be overwhelming. This is why it is so important that you make sure you are exercising enough. Your movement matters, and it can lower your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease or stroke. When starting implementing different workouts into your daily routine, start small and know that your no movement is too little when bettering your mental stability.

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