Physical Activity and Your Mental Health
Many people exercise for the physical benefits such as getting stronger, fitter or losing weight but physical activity can be very powerful in helping improve mental health in people as well. How many of us have completed a workout or have been for a long walk and felt good after? Your body might be aching and you’re desperate to sit down and have a rest but mentally you feel great for completing the activity.
What people don’t realise is that physical activity and mental health are intertwined and by working on one aspect you will inadvertently work on the other. What this means is that you might do physical activity for the physical benefits of improved stamina, increased muscle mass or losing weight but by doing this you are also increasing confidence, self-esteem and overall, a positive impact on mood.
So why does physical activity help to make you feel better? What is the science behind physical activity and mental health? There are many articles, research papers, blogs that go into this in detail so I will list the main points from these:
- Chemical reaction to make you feel good – studies have shown that when you exercise your body releases chemicals such as endorphins which interacts with the receptors in your brain that reduces the perception of pain but also triggers a positive feeling in the body boosting self-esteem.
- Increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain – by doing physical activity, you are working the body which in turns increases blood flow especially to the brain. This means that there will be an increase in oxygen leading to elevated oxygenation and improved cerebral blood flow.
- Distraction – doing physical activity means you are concentrating on the physical activity and distracts you from negative thoughts.
- Reducing the risk of depression – studies have shown that by doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing periods of depression.
- Improved self-esteem – becoming more active can help you feel better about yourself.
- Improved sleep – by becoming more active you are improving your sleep cycle as you are more tired at the end of the day.
- Connection to other people – by doing physical activity especially in a group setting can help you meet new people and improve your social connections.
So, if physical activity can do all the above, what activity should you be doing? The answer to this is anything that you enjoy whether it is going to the gym, swimming, doing a class or going out for a walk to mention a few.
If you are unsure where to start, then walking is a good way to increasing your physical activity and improving your mental health. Walking is free and you do not need to spend a lot of money on equipment just a pair of trainers and a nice warm coat as you can never trust the British weather. It does not matter if you are a novice to physical activity or an experienced person as you can set the intensity of the walk to your ability. If you are unsure how to do this then please read the blog, Intensity – Am I working too hard or too easy? (https://kirkleeswellnessservice.co.uk/intensity-am-i-working-too-hard-or-too-easy/)
Walking also does not have a time constraint as you can fit a walk no matter how short around your daily living. So if you are wanting to improve you physical activity and mental health through walking then please read walk your way to health and fitness in 2022 (https://kirkleeswellnessservice.co.uk/walk-your-way-to-health-and-fitness-in-2022/).