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Unpacking the Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

Understanding the Scientific Benefits of Exercise

When it comes to treating mental health, psychologists and psychiatrists use evidence-based therapy methods to help patients understand and manage their mental health disorders. However, more and more mental health professionals are implementing the importance of lifestyle changes, such as exercise, as part of comprehensive treatment plans. Many mental health exercise benefits include boosting ‘feel good’ hormones and endorphins, reducing stress, improving self-esteem, and regulating sleep. Regular exercise can help improve symptoms of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, including the ability to handle stress and enhance cognitive function.

Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and lower rates of mental illness. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that physical activity is highly beneficial in improving the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and overall distress. This study also highlighted the importance of including physical activity as primary support for all mental health issues. While exercise can help reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and be a way to get our minds off worrying thoughts, exercise has several physiological effects that positively impact mental health.

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

One of the mental health exercise benefits is that it releases ‘feel good’ chemicals like endorphins and serotonin to improve mood. Elevated endorphin levels brought on by exercise have been linked to several psychological changes, including “exercise-induced euphoria,” altered pain perception, and the stress response of numerous hormones, including cortisol. These chemicals also improve various aches and pains in the body, which can lead to depression, irritability, and lack of sleep.

Physical exercise can also improve sleep, according to some research. Getting good sleep helps to reduce various mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression. It can directly impact chemicals in our brain that regulate circadian rhythm, burn off extra energy, and reduce stress and intrusive thoughts, which can keep us up at night. Regular exercise also lowers the risk of obesity, linked to sleep apnea.

Association Between Exercise and Improved Mood

Endorphins are hormones called neurotransmitters produced by the pituitary gland and central nervous system. They are natural mood elevators and painkillers. Individuals with mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder, often have deficient serotonin and dopamine levels. Exercise will help release endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin, which work together to promote mental health. These chemicals can give an improved outlook on life as well. Physical activity also helps you sleep better and increases energy levels, which is essential for managing mood. It can also help regulate the flight or fight response, which is active during a perceived stressful or frightening event and is a response to anxiety.

The Physical Activity and Mental Health Connection

Mental health exercise benefits also include improving stress levels. Often, stress can be a trigger for those with mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. Exercise is an excellent outlet for frustration. It can also improve self-esteem by improving body image, having a sense of accomplishment, feeling more muscular, and feeling better overall.

Cognitive health is the ability to think, learn, and remember. Some symptoms associated with mental health disorders include issues with cognitive health, such as slowed-down thinking and memory loss. A person may be more at risk for mental health issues without good cognitive health. Physical activity increases blood pressure and blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. More blood means more oxygen, which makes the brain perform better, improving cognition and memory. Being able to think more clearly and focus helps you better organize, problem-solve, and make good choices.

The Mental Benefits of Exercise: A Deeper Dive

Exercise has an enormous impact on overall well-being. People who regularly exercise have improved mood, concentration, and alertness. Inactivity can be both the cause and consequence of mental health disorders. However, some of the mental benefits of exercise include:

  • Helping anxiety and depression symptoms: Scientific benefits of exercise include boosting endorphin levels, which can improve anxiety and depression symptoms. Regular exercise will help improve cognitive function, which may be impaired in those with mental health disorders.
  • Decreases stress: Not only does exercise help you feel better after a stressful day by reducing levels of stress-related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, but it can also help prevent stress.
  • Improves self-confidence: Regular exercise can contribute to improved body image and better self-compassion, which are great ways to boost self-esteem.
  • Promotes better sleep: Mental health exercise benefits include improving your sleep. Poor sleep can cause worsening mental health symptoms, so it is important to get 7 to 8 hours of restless sleep a night.
  • Creates an overall sense of well-being: Getting regular exercise will create an overall sense of well-being, a sense of accomplishment, and better coping abilities, which will improve your mental health.

Enhancing Resilience Through Physical Activity

As mentioned earlier, exercise can help relieve stress, but it also helps our bodies adapt to stress and prevent it. While stress can be useful, for example, when we are in danger, it can result in the fast release of hormones and other chemicals that get our bodies to act. However, if we have a stress response for every little thing, it can lead to anxiety and a lack of stress resilience. Regular exercise can prevent our bodies from physically reacting to stress, such as elevated blood pressure and cortisol levels, and promote more positive moods and the ability to bounce back from stressful events.

the benefits of exercising for mental health

Best Exercises for Mental Health and Depression

Any type of exercise that gets your body moving and heart elevated can help your mental health. The key to improving your mental health through exercise is doing it regularly and doing something you enjoy. The best exercises for mental health will be moderate-intensity, such as walking, dancing, or yoga, as well as vigorous exercises like running, biking, or weight lifting. Group sports activities can have the added benefit of socializing while working out as well. Here are some physical activity exercises for mental health and depression you can try:

  • Walking: Walking is a great option for staying mentally healthy. It is free, relatively low impact, and can get you outdoors. Even a 15-minute walk is enough to reap the mental health exercise benefits.
  • Walking or running: Aerobic exercise like running has the strongest evidence to support mental health. Engaging in 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week can significantly lessen depressive symptoms, but even a 10-to-15-minute jog around the block can make a big difference.
  • Yoga: Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing into physical activity makes it one of the best exercises for mental health. There are several types of yoga, including vinyasa, which is more active, and hatha, which is more meditative. Going to a yoga class also helps you be around others in a calm, supportive environment.
  • Dancing: If you find aerobic activities like running to be tedious, dancing can be a great way to get moving and have fun. There are several places that offer dancing classes, aerobic classes like Zumba, or free dancing workout classes online.
  • Resistance training: Whether it’s free weight, weight machines, or even using your own body, resistance training can help improve your mental health by boosting self-esteem and confidence, getting some frustrations out, and getting your heart rate up to boost endorphins.
Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

Exercise as a Natural Antidepressant

An imbalance of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin is believed to cause depression symptoms, such as apathy and feelings of hopelessness. Exercising for as little as 30 minutes per day can be an effective natural antidepressant because these hormones are released during exercise. No matter what type of exercise you choose, getting your heart rate up and your body moving, exercise releases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, which improve mental health. It can also help protect you from having future depressive episodes in the future. Many doctors are now prescribing exercise as a way to combat depression before trying medication.

Social Benefits of Group Exercises

One way to boost mental health exercise benefits is through group exercises. Participating in group sports or exercise classes can have several social benefits, which can improve mental health as well. Some social benefits of exercise include:

  • Making new friends who share a similar interest as you, such as dancing.
  • Improves your social skills; depending on the type of exercise you participate in, it may require you to use skills such as teamwork, leadership, and communication.
  • Provides a sense of community, which is associated with reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Being around others and socially interacting during group exercise can also boost your mental health.
  • Boosts your motivation because it’s harder to skip out on a workout if there are others you let down, plus others in your group can encourage you to work harder.

Free Emotional Support for California Residents

California residents have access to a free emotional support chat and phone line through BeWellLine. Support specialists at BeWellLine can help you deal with difficult emotions and mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, while also providing you with ways to better cope with a variety of issues. Emotional support chat and phone line will connect you with peer support specialists 24 hours a day. You can access services anonymously and for whatever issue you are going through. Combining emotional support through trained peer counselors and incorporating healthy lifestyle habits, like eating well and exercising, can help you manage mental health symptoms. You can contact BeWellLine by calling 866-349-0854.

How Exercise and Mental Health Support Go Hand-in-Hand

While mental health support through counseling or therapy is important for coping with negative emotions and mood, incorporating exercise routines can greatly improve its effects. Mental health issues are complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to treating symptoms. A well-rounded, holistic approach, which includes healthy lifestyle changes and professional support services, can provide the most effective treatment for managing mental health issues. Supplementing traditional mental health treatment with the healing power of exercise can improve overall health and well-being. 

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

How does exercise impact mental health?

Exercise can have a great positive impact on mental health. It boosts endorphins like serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for regulating mood and emotions. The benefits of exercise also include improving self-confidence, reducing stress, and providing a feeling of overall well-being. People who engage in regular exercise experience lower rates of mental illness and less severe negative mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

What are the scientific mental health exercise benefits?

Scientific benefits of exercise include boosting and regulating biochemicals and hormones responsible for mental health. Exercise can increase dopamine and serotonin production, which creates feelings of happiness, euphoria, and well-being. Regular physical activity also results in better sleep, which is important for emotional and mental health. It has also been shown to increase blood supply to the brain, which can improve cognitive function, such as better focus, memory, and clear thinking, areas where many people with mental health disorders struggle.

What are some mental benefits of regular exercise?

Mental health exercise benefits include reducing mental health illness symptoms. Endorphin boosts from exercise can improve anxiety and depression symptoms. Regular exercise also decreases stress, which is a major trigger for mental health symptoms. Being physically active can also improve self-confidence and good sleep, and it creates a sense of overall mental and physical well-being. This is also a great way to create a routine, which aids in mental health management.

How can exercise enhance resilience?

Mental health exercise benefits are not only for dealing with stress. Regular exercise can help you adapt to and prevent stress. It can prevent our bodies from physically reacting to stress, such as a rise in blood pressure and cortisol levels, and help us have a more positive mood or outlook after stressful situations. People who exercise have a better ability to bounce back from adversity, cope with negative situations, and build resilience more effectively.

Which exercises are most beneficial for mental health?

Any type of exercise that gets your body moving and heart rate up can have positive effects on your mental health. However, moderate-intensity exercise has been shown to have the best impact on managing mental health symptoms. Some of the best exercises for mental health include:

  • Walking, which is low impact, free, and gets you outside. Even a 15-minute walk can help clear your mind and boost your mood.
  • Running is an aerobic activity that can help you really burn off frustration and clear your mind.
  • Yoga incorporates meditation and breathing exercises into physical activity.
  • Dancing is a fun, aerobic activity that incorporates fun music to give you an extra positive mood boost.
  • Resistance training, which can be with free weights, machines, or just your body, can help boost self-esteem and confidence while also releasing endorphins to improve overall mental health.

How does exercise serve as a natural antidepressant?

The best exercises for depression will work as an antidepressant because they boost serotonin and dopamine levels, which many with depression are lacking. This boost in endorphins can result in feelings of happiness, reduce pain, and create a feeling of well-being. Exercise can also improve self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment, which many people with depression struggle with.

What are the social benefits of group exercises for mental health?

There are several social benefits to group exercises, which provide an extra boost to mental health include:

  • Making new friends and reducing feelings of loneliness.
  • Improves social skills and communication, which can help with issues around social anxiety.
  • Provides a sense of community, which is associated with reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Being around others who are supportive can improve your self-esteem and feelings of acceptance.

How does exercise complement mental health support services?

Exercise is a great way to boost the effectiveness of professional mental health support services. A well-rounded treatment plan, which incorporates holistic techniques like physical exercise, can be much more effective than therapy or medication alone. Mental health therapy and counseling can provide an outlet to talk about any issues you may feel and teach coping strategies. Incorporating healthy lifestyle changes, like exercise, can help you manage symptoms more quickly and easily.

BeWellLine is a free emotional support chat and phone line for California residents. Our trained peer support counselors can help you tackle any mental health issue you are struggling with and get you feeling better today. We can provide you with effective coping skills, tips for implementing healthy lifestyle changes and resources, or refer you to higher levels of care if needed. Our services are available 24/7 by calling 866-349-0854 or have an online chat. You do not need to struggle alone; we are here to help you back up and get on your way to feeling your best.

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