We’ve all heard the phrase ‘healthy body equals healthy mind’, but how many of us really consider the benefits of exercise for our mental health?
According to a recent survey, 31% of people exercise to improve their mental health. So is this something that we should all be considering when we slip on our trainers or gym kit?
Make the Mind Matter
The link between physical activity and mental wellbeing is something that, as a company, we have always been very keen to highlight. Our aim is to create technology that helps everyone to be fit, healthy and have fun over a lifetime. We believe it is the combination of physical movements and mental stimulation that can have the most significant effect on an individual’s wellbeing.
Exercise stimulates the mind and releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body, which is why exercise is often described as a ‘mood-booster’. Some researchers believe that being active improves wellbeing because it leads to greater self-esteem and self-control for the individual. There are also a number of other areas that physical activity can improve when it comes to mental health.
Stress and Depression
Exercise gives the mind a chance to escape from every day stressors and often, subconsciously, process present and emerging issues. In fact, 32% teens and 30% of adults felt less stressed after exercise.
A recent survey by King’s College London found that exercising for just 20-minutes a day can reduce the risk of developing depression by a third. The study also found that higher levels of physical activity were protective from future depression in children and adults.
Often linked to stress and depression, anxiety has also shown to be significantly reduced through exercise. Regular exercise has shown to alleviate chronic anxiety and there is some evidence to show that it may also reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks. Both aerobic activity and strength training can reduce feelings of anxiety when done regularly – so there should be something out there for everyone.
Being active often leads to greater levels of self-esteem and self-control, which in turn can improve social relations. There are a number of significant social benefits of being active, especially when exercising in pairs or groups. The establishment of friendships, development of a new support network and increased confidence in group situations can all stem from a more active lifestyle.
The Flip Side
Exercise and activity have a number of positive effects on mind and body. However, it is important to be aware that external factors and exercise goals can have a negative effect on mental health too. Social media inspirations, calorie counting and weight loss goals can be great for motivation when exercising, but they shouldn’t be the sole focus of an exercise regime.
Appreciating positive mental health effects of getting up and active can be a powerful way of steering clear of unnecessary pressures. So, if you’re looking for another nugget of motivation, then your personal wellness could be the just the ticket.
Exercise is Medicine
In recent years, the discussion over whether exercise should be prescribed as medicine for mental wellbeing has been a trending topic of conversation.
One in four adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in a given year, which is estimated to cost the NHS £105 billion annually. So, if exercise can play even a small role in improving the mental health of young people and adults, then the impact on external factors such as NHS spending and workforce productivity could be huge too.
Compared to pharmacological and psychological interventions, exercise is much more readily available and cost-effective. Exercise also carries no stigma - it’s a recommended daily activity that millions of people participate in daily.
For many, exercise can be the first item that drops off the ‘to do list’. But with so many positive effects for the mind and body, the best advice is to schedule it into your day just like you would a meal or a meet up. You’ll thank yourself for it later!