Your physical health can have an impact on your mental health. Not only does eating a nutritious diet help reduce your risk of depression, having a healthy exercise regimen can help mental health symptoms from worsening. In this blog, we’ll discuss how exercise can benefit mental health and what you can do to stay active and prevent your symptoms from worsening.
How exercise benefits mental health
When you exercise, a number of substances in the brain that regulate mood are affected. Exercise increases the protein BDNF, which stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This protein regulates depression-like behaviors.
Endorphins, a neurotransmitter or “chemical messenger” in the brain, are released after periods of intense exercise. Following exercise, endorphins produce the euphoric feeling often referred to as a “runner’s high.” Endorphins also reduce feelings of stress or pain and increase feelings of pleasure. Another neurotransmitter released during exercise is serotonin, which is the target of medications called SSRIs or SNRIs used to treat conditions like anxiety and depression.
Dopamine is a substance that is linked to the body’s reward system. Because of this link, dopamine is involved in addiction. However, exercise is a healthy way of increasing dopamine in the brain naturally. Low-levels of dopamine are linked to mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and psychosis.
Glutamate and GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid) regulate nerve cells in the brain that are linked to your emotions and your ability to think clearly. Low-levels of GABA are associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mood disorders.
Exercising is a natural way to increase these substances in the brain, and in turn, prevent symptoms from worsening.
Why exercise is important for mental health
Exercise can help prevent mental illnesses from worsening and a healthy exercise regimen can help support treatment. Consider these facts:
- Exercising for just one hour every week is linked to lower levels of mood, anxiety and substance use disorders.
- People who exercise regularly are less likely to have depression, panic disorders and phobias.
- According to one study, exercising regularly had similar effects as cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing symptoms.
- Yoga has been shown to be the most effective form of exercise for people with schizophrenia because it reduces both positive and negative symptoms associated with the disorder.
If you are in treatment for mental illness or substance use disorder, adding exercise to your routine can be beneficial.
Exercise routines for good mental health
Creating an exercise routine for good mental health is easier than you might think. Here are some pointers to get you started:
- Ten minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise twice a day, every day is the recommended amount of exercise to begin feeling mental health benefits.
- Incorporate muscle-strengthening activities twice a week.
- Yoga, lifting weights, using resistance bands, push-ups and sit-ups are all good strengthening exercises.
- Strengthening exercises should make your muscles feel tired at the end of the routine to be effective.
- Be mindful of how much weight you are lifting to avoid injuries.
- Physical activities you enjoy, like sports or hiking, are an easy way to incorporate exercise into your routine.
Exercising regularly can relieve stress and reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, phobias and even schizophrenia. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is a great way to support your treatment.
Improving mental health does not happen overnight. If you are trying to improve your physical and mental health but are having difficulty coping with your symptoms, counseling can be beneficial. First, you might want to begin by taking a free mental health assessment. Each of our assessments is reviewed by a psychologist who will help you understand your symptoms and treatment options.
Find out how counseling can improve your life by visiting one of our counseling centers. We have counseling centers in Kissimmee, Longwood and St. Cloud, Florida, as well as a counseling center in Chattanooga. Contact us if you’re ready to make a change.