How exercise helps improve your mental health

Regular exercise can play a pivotal role in improving mental health, for a number of different reasons. According to experts, exercise releases chemicals in your brain calls endorphins which help to trigger positive feelings in your body and promote happiness.  Another consequence of regular exercise can be weight loss which for some helps boost self-esteem and body confidence.

Studies show that regular aerobic exercise results in moderate increases in positive moods, finding that low-intensity exercise for 30-35 minutes, on 3-5 days per week over 10-12 weeks was the optimal amount and level of exercise for improving positive moods.

Further research shows that from the people participating in a large study, the ones who did the most physical activity were less likely to get depression than those who did the least, as shared on the NHS website. The study followed up with over 266,000 people on average 7 years later to see if any had developed depression.

Types of exercise that help improve mental health

Whilst all types of exercise make positive steps towards improving mental health, with research suggesting that low-intensity exercise for 30-35 mins, 3-5 times per week is optimal for mood-boosting, the optimal types of exercise would include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Low-intensity cycling
  • Yoga

This probably comes as good news to those people who don’t like or feel motivated enough to get involved in more high-intensity activities. As well as these kinds of exercises, activities such as mopping, gardening, hoovering etc. can achieve the same results, as they are based on the same type of activity intensity. So, you don’t necessarily need to add more hours into your day, just more housework!

How to build more exercise into your routine

If you are somebody that has mental health issues or can feel low at points, then you can benefit from building some low-intensity exercise into your weekly schedule. Walking is probably one of the easiest exercises to factor in your everyday life. You can do this by making some basic changes like deciding to walk instead of drive when you are going somewhere fairly local, take a walk on your lunch break at work or take the stairs instead of the lift.

Another good way to build more low-intensity exercise into your routine is to join a class. As well as giving you increased motivation to go (if you book on, you’re less likely to cancel) you might also find the social aspect of these kinds of classes give you an even greater mental boost, as social interaction is good for your mood and self-esteem too.

One of the most important factors in doing more exercise is that you find something that you enjoy doing. Arranging to go for a walk with a friend instead of meeting for food/drink ensures that you are doing something you enjoy. If you try to force yourself into doing exercises that you find a chore then you are more likely to stop doing it. So, choose an activity that you enjoy to help you to stick to doing regular exercise.

At Northern Healthcare we know how valuable exercise is in improving mental health and that is why it is a key element of the services that we provide and promote. We encourage all residents to participate in more exercise to achieve their individual recovery pathways. For more information on what we have to offer, click here.

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

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