Mental health has become an increasingly prevalent talking point in recent years, and it’s no surprise when we consider that Mental health-related complications are one of the main causes of the world’s overall disease burden. As awareness around mental wellness has grown, exercise has been hailed as an inexpensive method of dealing with ailments such as stress, depression, anxiety and even sleeping problems.
A scientifically proven mood booster, exercise encourages the release of chemical endorphins in the brain and nervous system. This, the body’s famous ‘feel-good’ chemical produces feelings of happiness and euphoria. So much so that even only moderate exercise throughout the week can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. As a result, many doctors will recommend an exercise regime for mental health conditions before prescribing medication.
Our mental health is also closely linked to the quality of sleep we get a night. There’s a vicious cycle whereby poor sleep leads to worrying, and worrying leads to poor sleep – exercise can help break this trend. The increase in body temperature that comes from working out in the gym has a calming effect on the mind. Whilst the body’s natural alarm clock, our circadian rhythm, is also better regulated when we take part in a regular exercise regime.
Noticing the changes that going to the gym has on our body can be a huge boost to our self-esteem. Better still, there’s no shortage to the physical achievements we can experience through regular exercise! You may not set out for better fitting clothes, less laboured breathing on your Sunday walk or a spring in your step. Oftentimes, the improvements that exercise has on our endurance and physique catches us by surprise.
Reduced stress levels are another mental benefit of exercise, and undoubtedly something that could make us all happier! Increasing our heart rate stimulates the production of hormones in our brain such as norepinephrine, which not only improves mood but can also lead to clearer thinking when experiencing stressful events. Some studies go as far as to suggest that physical activity boosts creativity and mental energy. So if you’re in need of inspiration or mental clarity, your best bet may be heading to the gym for a quick work out!
So next time you’re feeling low, why not lace up your trainers and head out on a jog, lift some weights in the gym or do a few lengths of your local pool. You’ve got nothing to lose and science says it’ll make you feel better!