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How Can Regular Exercise Improve Your Mental Health?

Did you know that the expression “a healthy mind in a healthy body” was first coined by the Roman poet Juvenal in the 2nd century? Even the Ancient Romans understood the important relationship between a healthy body and mental health.

However, you don’t need to look like a Roman gladiator or one of Sparta’s 300 to benefit from regular exercise. Medical studies demonstrate a strong correlation between moderate aerobic exercise and improvements in mental health.

The Science

Scientists do not fully understand why physical exercise improves mental health. Medical research teams continue to work on this important question. However, countless rigorous studies have proved a connection.

A scholarly article published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews in October 2019 outlined the results of an experiment examining the antidepressant mechanisms of exercise. This study concluded that the physiological and phycological benefits of exercise are both significant and lasting. Exercise causes changes in our brains that protect us from both depression and stress as well as improving brain functionality. 

A 1995 research paper onto the connections demonstrated that these changes include improved cognitive functionality and self-esteem. These effects are somehow connected to changes in hormone production. A 1991 experiment showed that exercise reduces anxiety, but the exercise must be aerobic and last for at least 21 minutes.

The Benefits

In summary, the proven mental-health-related benefits of exercise include:

- The release of mood-improving endorphins,

- A boost in self-esteem and confidence,

- The achievement of goals improves motivation,

- Improved concentration, and

- Better sleep.

How Hard Must You Exercise?

Too much exercise can lead to other health issues, including an addiction to exercise and dietary diseases like anorexia for those fixated on their body’s shape. In the National Health Statistics Report, the CDC advised you perform 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week.

In order to ensure that you don’t damage your health while performing strenuous exercises, it is a good idea to join a gym or attend exercise classes organized by trained and certified professionals. An experienced trainer can help you select the kinds of exercise that will benefit you the most based on your current health and state of mind.

What Kind Of Exercise Is Best?

Research demonstrates “mindful” exercise generates better improvements in mental health than unfocused exercise. For example, a 2013 study observed patients participating in mindful walking and discovered significant reductions in psychological stress and improved quality of life.

Yoga

Yoga is a traditional way of combining meditation with exercise. Research conducted by Duke University and published in Frontiers In Affective Disorders And Psychosomatic Research demonstrates that yoga improves mental health conditions, like depression and ADHD.

The American Psychological Association recommends for treating ADHD, depression, hyperactivity, and sleep disorders. Yoga poses help you to relax, alleviating stress and reducing anxiety.

Tai chi

Tai chi is an alternative way to combine meditation with physical exercise. The Tufts University School of Medicine in Massachusetts discovered that tai chi reduces anxiety, depression, mood disturbance, and stress. Traditional Chinese shadow boxing also improves self-esteem.

Pilates

Pilates is a more modern exercise technique also proven to improve mental health through mindful exercise. Controlled breathing is one of the 8 Principles of Pilates. Specific breathing patterns help practitioners focus on the rhythm and moment of the exercise. Pilates is commonly used to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. Pilates is also linked to improved memory.     

Other Exercises

If you want to get in 30-minutes of aerobic exercise every day, cycling is an exercise that minimizes strain on your joints but provides an excellent cardio workout. If you don’t want to risk the roads, you can use a stationary exercise cycle.

Are you short on time? You can combine a weekly or bi-weekly visit to the gym or exercise studio with regular exercise at home or in your office. For example, you can purchase a desktop pedal arm exerciser to give yourself a great aerobic workout without needing to take your eyes off your screen.

Those who love alternative exercise routines might like to try out an inversion table. Being turned upside down for a brief period of time completely changes the way your muscles work. This innovative exercise technique also helps with back and joint pain and arthritis. Athletes use them to improve circulation as this can help with muscle repair for damage caused by other more strenuous exercises.

Mantras

Though a mental rather than a physical exercise, chanting a mantra can be an effective relaxing technique. A mantra is a phrase or verse you speak aloud when under pressure. It provides a counter-anxiety narrative.

“Aum mani padme hūm” is a popular Buddhist mantra. Its translation is problematic, but it means something like “Sacred lotus jewel enlighten me”. Relaxation stems more from the soothing sound than the actual meaning.

Christians and Jews might prefer to seek solace in popular Psalms, such as “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”. The aim is to convince your mind that a stressful and anxious moment is fleeting. “This too shall pass”. So, as the British say, keep calm and carry on…await the inevitable return to normal anxiety levels.

Don’t Forget To Rest

If you’re planning to exercise to improve your mental health, you must also set aside time to rest. A change in pace and scenery is beneficial for your mental health. You should sleep more to compensate for your new physical exercise routine. Too little sleep may lead to mental health problems, mental fatigue, and a loss of focus.

Make That Change Today

You can’t cure all your problems in one day. However, if you don’t make a start, you’ll never see any of the potential mental and physical health benefits of exercise. You should establish an action plan to turn your life around.

Ideally, you need to exercise for around 30 minutes a day doing aerobic exercises to reap benefits. Be smart and get guidance from a local gym or certified fitness trainer. An instructor-led Zumba or kick-boxing-workout could change your life!

This Blog post was written by contributors from HealthWellness 365 and Best Womens Workouts.

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