You have heard that exercise is good for you. It is generally recommended by doctors that moderate exercise of 30 minutes, 5 times a week will put you in good physical health. But chances are, we probably aren't keeping to the 5 X 30 minutes rule.

After all, who has the time to do so, with deadlines to meet, emails to answer and presentations to give? There just is so much to do and so little time to do so.

But it's not just your physical health that will benefit - physical activity has also been shown to improve mental health. After all, your brain is a muscle and the way to effectively reach your goals is to keep your brain happy and healthy.

Physical activity is  important in helping us deal with the daily stressors of life and has been shown to beneficial to prevent mental illness and also to help improve mental health.

There is strong evidence that that physical activity can reduce the risk of depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, physical activity can enhance psychological well-being, by improving self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, and by reducing levels of anxiety and fatigue.

There just is so much to do and good mental health is the best way to effectively accomplish our goals. Mental health is not a reward for the successful, but it is the foundation and the means to our success.

For added benefit: Exercising outdoors and enjoying nature seems to be particularly helpful in boosting mental health.

 

How does exercise help?

  • Exercise seems to have an effect on certain chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, so they affect your mood and thinking.
  • Exercise can stimulate other chemicals in the brain called “brain derived neurotrophic factors”. These help new brain cells to grow and develop. Moderate exercise seems to work better than vigorous exercise.
  • Exercise seems to reduce harmful changes in the brain caused by stress.
  • Exercise helps reduce high levels of anxiety sensitivity. Anxiety sensitivity is the fear of anxiety sensations because of the belief that anxiety sensations will lead to bad consequences and is characteristic of most anxiety disorders.
  • Exercise builds physiological resilience to stressful mood states.
  • Exercise can improve self-esteem and self-efficacy by reinforcing the adaptive beliefs that one has the power to influence his or her environment and bring about desired outcomes.
References

Asmundson, G. J., Fetzner, M. G., DeBoer, L. B., Powers, M. B., Otto, M. W., & Smits, J. A. (2013). Let's get physical: a contemporary review of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for anxiety and its disorders. Depression and anxiety, 30(4), 362-373.

Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental science & technology, 44(10), 3947-3955.

Callaghan, P. (2004). Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care?. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 11(4), 476-483.

Mitchell, R. (2013). Is physical activity in natural environments better for mental health than physical activity in other environments?. Social Science & Medicine, 91, 130-134.

Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J. R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current opinion in psychiatry, 18(2), 189-193.

Rebar, A. L., Stanton, R., Geard, D., Short, C., Duncan, M. J., & Vandelanotte, C. (2015). A meta-meta-analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populations. Health psychology review, 9(3), 366-378.

Stathopoulou, G., Powers, M. B., Berry, A. C., Smits, J. A., & Otto, M. W. (2006). Exercise interventions for mental health: a quantitative and qualitative review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 13(2), 179-193.

Zschucke, Elisabeth, Katharina Gaudlitz, and Andreas Ströhle. “Exercise and Physical Activity in Mental Disorders: Clinical and Experimental Evidence.” Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health 46.Suppl 1 (2013): S12–S21. PMC. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/treatmentswellbeing/physicalactivity.aspx

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