Exercise and Its Effects on Mental Health
Sep 6, 2018
We all know that exercise is good for weight loss, muscle toning, and controlling various health diseases, but did you know it also has a positive impact on your mental health? Below are some different examples of mental health challenges that exercise can help combat.
Anxiety is one condition that is very common among the U.S. population. Approximately 40 million adults are affected by anxiety and stress, according to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). Studies have shown that exercise is a natural and effective treatment for anxiety - it relieves tension and stress, boosts energy, and releases feel-good endorphins that can enhance your sense of well-being!
Harvard University found that 1 in 10 people in the U.S. struggle with depression. Exercise can help those dealing with depression in several ways. "Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good," (helpguide.org). Research has shown that exercise can be just as effective as medication but is often underused or overlooked!
According to the ADAA, 60% of children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) become adults with ADHD, which is about 8 million adults. "Physical Activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall," (helpguide.org). Exercise is one ADHD treatment that doesn't require a prescription!
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that develops after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. Although strenuous exercise may be helpful for some with PTSD, milder forms of exercise such as yoga, may be most beneficial for reducing negative thinking patterns and focusing on the present. Paying close attention to the physical sensations in the joints and muscles as the body moves is a good way to keep yourself focused and in the moment.
Lastly, physical activity could help reduce dementia risks. As stated by Time Health, "older adults with poor fitness levels have more deterioration of white matter in their brains, according to a new study, compared with their fitter peers." This shows that regular exercise could possibly slow cognitive decline and perhaps even dementia!