Does a healthy body = a healthy mind?
We are told that exercise can help to improve our mental health and wellbeing, however how does this work? Can being active really help to change the mindset of someone suffering? In my personal experience yes it does, and it is one of the best anxiety relievers for me.
Exercise has shown to increase certain chemicals in our brain including dopamine and serotonin, which are linked to anxiety and depression. Serotonin is regarded as a chemical being responsible for maintaining mood, and that a deficit can lead to mental health problems.¹ Similarly, a lack of dopamine can leave you lacking motivation, feeling hopeless and suffering with fatigue.² We have all heard of endorphins which is a chemical released when taking part in exercise resulting in giving you a boost of energy and feel-good emotion.
For me the release of these chemicals leaves me feeling accomplished and happy after a workout which results in the feeling of self belief. Feeling good in yourself leads to self-confidence, which makes you feel as if you are worth something and you can do things when you put your mind to it. A positive mind can make such a difference!
During bad times I have sat at home instead of going to do my usual workouts, and that turns into a week of not exercising, which results in me not feeling great about myself. It can be a vicious cycle so I now push myself to go even if I am feeling low, as I know by the end I will walk out the gym doors feeling so proud that I went. If I am feeling angry about something a ten minute HIIT session lets me take my anger out on the treadmill, or squatting heavy takes so much energy from every part of my body it can be an amazing release of frustration and adrenaline.
There are many small ways you can start incorporating exercise into your lifestyle. The recommended is at least 30 minutes a day and this isn’t to say you need to become a runner overnight. Below are some ideas for increasing your daily physical activity:
Walk to work if are close enough / walk your children to school / run errands by foot / find a new route to walk the dog / take a short walk on your lunch hour.
Swimming can be a great option if you have joint pain or issues as it is a low impact sport. A 30 minute swim will burn a surprising amount of calories.
Push yourself to try out something new. This could range from yoga to zumba to a legs, bums & tums class at your local gym. Ask a friend to come along with you if you don;t want to go along!
The mental benefits of exercise has been staggering for me and is helping me towards my recovery. I see a huge difference in my moods and general outlook when I don’t exercise, so for me it really is a different type of therapy. I urge everyone to go out there and find an activity or exercise they love, both for the physical and mental prosperity.
¹ Medical News Today