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Nov 8, 2016

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

You read about it, hear about it and you may even say it… the countless benefits of exercise for your mental well-being. Having a healthy and fit body works hand in hand with having a healthy mind.

Exercise is not only about cardio and weights – it’s also about relaxation techniques that help your mental well-being. Relaxation techniques can include yoga, pilates, meditation, gentle stretches, slow breathing and deep muscle relaxation.

Here some of the mental health benefits of all types of exercise – cardio, weights and relaxation:

  1. Improving your circadian rhythm – that is, regulating your sleep and wake patterns.
  2. Feeling less tired which helps your mental alertness, focus, concentration and decision making.
  3. Increasing social interactions and networks with like-minded people (eg. having an exercise buddy, meeting new people at the gym, engaging with people when you go for a walk). This a good way to create new opportunities, make new friends or even help you feel less alone and isolated.
  4. Or maybe the opposite of social interactions – exercising alone and having a social “time out”. Enjoying some solitude and personal leisure time can help you reset.
  5. Improving your self-esteem when exercise is regular and you can see a positive difference in your appearance and body image. Not only will you feel better as you become fitter or lose weight, but you will feel confident about achieving other personal goals (eg. looking for a new job).
  6. Better mental endurance and sharpness to cope with daily stressors. Exercise is a great outlet for stress relief and can also be used as a “lever” for stress prevention.
  7. Reducing your stress hormones and increasing your Endorphins are your body’s natural brain chemicals – they interact with brain receptors and act like painkillers and mood elevators. They are released during exercise and trigger a more positive feeling.
  8. Calming your central nervous system and boosting your immune system.
  9. Giving you the ability to approach your daily tasks in a more positive and constructive way since you’re in a better mood.
  10. Stronger resilience when faced with emotional challenges to address personal or work issues. Exercise helps you cope in a healthier way rather than resorting to substance abuse or other negative behaviors which can make you feel worse.
  11. Distracting you from negative thoughts or daily worries and being able to think more freely or creatively.
  12. Achieving other important lifestyle goals (eg. quitting smoking) with your renewed vigour, energy and stamina through the discipline of regular exercise.

Regular exercise truly is an investment in your body and mind. There is also a plethora of research suggesting the positive impacts and benefits of exercise on mental health and our moods such as depression and anxiety. If you’re feeling this way, consider speaking with a trusted health professional.

Ondine Hasbani
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Counselling: Looking after the whole of you
Psychologist: BSc (Psych, Maths), MA (Psych), MBA