Physical Exercise = Better Mental Health

[avatar user=”doller” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=””]by Denisse Oller[/avatar] We all know exercise is good for your physical health, but did you know that consistent exercise is proven to have significant benefits for your mental health too? Regular exercise can help serious mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, among others. In addition to relieving stress, exercise aids in improving your memory, providing a better night’s sleep, and boosting your overall mood.

All of these perks contribute to increased energy and stamina, both mentally and physically. But how does that happen? What kind of exercises should we be doing to achieve these benefits? How much exercise does it take to get these results?

The connection between exercise and mental health benefits stems from the increased blood circulation caused by physical activity. The support in blood flow positively impacts sections of the brain that control physical reactions to stress, motivation, mood, and memory formation. Exercise also improves mental health by developing self-esteem and cognitive function.

Studies show that when patients follow an aerobic exercise regimen, they exhibit fewer depressive symptoms. Additional research shows that exercise and regular physical activity can result in reduced anxiety. Cognitive effects can drastically improve with even one exercise session. Exercise can enhance cognitive function in younger adults by improving memory and reaction time, and in older adults by fighting against debilitating brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Physical activity is also proven to help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through both calming exercises like yoga and aerobic exercises that help promote rhythmic activity like jogging and swimming.

Aerobic exercises like swimming, walking, cycling, and jogging are great options for mental health improvements that rely on increased blood flow through the neurological system. Stretching has also been proven to help with mental health by relaxing the body and mind and relieving tension.

Thirty minutes of moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, 3 days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits to emerge. You can even split the 30 minutes into intervals to better fit into your busy schedule. Or check out one of the great local opportunities for group exercise, ranging from HIIT (high-intensity interval training) to Pilates and yoga being hosted in Riverside Park as part of Summer on the Hudson.

Exercise is by no means a replacement of medical and therapeutic treatment.  But exercise added to proper diagnosis and treatment, can prove to be extremely helpful to the maintenance and continued treatment of mental health care. No matter your status, make time to exercise more to help your brain in the short and long run.