Most of us know that exercise is good for our physical health, but did you know there are also many benefits of exercise on our mental health? Evidence suggests that exercise may be an often-overlooked intervention in mental health care. Aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, cycling, and even gardening have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. These improvements in mood are proposed to be related to the increase in blood circulation to the brain that is induced through exercise.
The positive physiological influence of exercise is thought to be attributed to the effects on several areas of the brain: the limbic system, which controls mood and motivation; the amygdala, which generates the fear response to stress; and the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory as well as in mood and motivation. Other hypotheses that have been suggested to explain the beneficial effects of physical activity on mental health include increases in self-efficacy (confidence in your ability to change your behavior and/or accomplish a goal), social interaction, and motivation.
Structured group programs can be effective as well as individual programs. The primary goal is to introduce a basic lifestyle change that focuses on adding moderate-intensity exercise, you can find tons of info at Drench Fitness on this topic. Making this change can be beneficial for the majority of people and can provide the following overall health benefits:
- Improved sleep
- Stress relief
- Improvement in mood
- Increase in energy and stamina
- Better endurance
- Reduction in tiredness
- Increase in mental alertness
- Weight reduction
- Reduced cholesterol
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
Callaghan, P. (2004). Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care? Journal of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, 11, 476-483.