Exercise & Mental Health

Over the last few years, more and more light has been shone on mental health and how we all need to look after it.  People are finally starting to understand that we need to take as much care of our mental health as we do our physical health. As people start to come forward and open up about their own struggles, mental health is now a normal and accepted part of our lives. The education and understanding of mental health are so important as it allows us to find new and different ways of dealing with mental health issues in everyday life.

Exercise has become a huge tool in the improvement of our mental health. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins in your brain. These chemicals, or happy hormones, make you feel good. Not only that, exercise also helps your brain get rid of chemicals, which helps you feel less stressed and anxious. Exercise is so important, not only for our mental health but our overall health and wellbeing.

Exercise can be anything. That is the beauty of it. You do not need to break yourself every day in the gym to feel the benefits of it. Find something you love and enjoy doing. Yes, the gym is an outlet for many, but others don’t like that type of exercise. Exercise is defined as “An activity requiring physical effort.” Once you’re moving your body and raising your heart rate – you are exercising. Walking, running, swimming, horse-riding, football, soccer, rugby, dance, tennis, badminton, golf and Pilates are all different forms of exercise.

Anyone who exercises regularly will always say they feel better having done it. It may be difficult to get yourself going, but you cannot stop your body from producing these hormones. You are guaranteed to feel a little lighter on your feet and calmer in yourself after exercising. For some people, the exercise itself is not the main attraction, but the social side of it is. People suffering from mental health issues generally tend to keep to themselves. Participation in any form of group activity allows them to get their exercise and meet groups of likeminded people, who are there for the same reason.

Exercise also promotes a healthier way of life. With regular exercise, you have more energy throughout the day. This is turn allows you to be more productive, raising your self-esteem. With more energy and confidence within yourself, you start to look after yourself a little better. Eating the right foods becomes important and sleeping is easier at night.

All of these things are of huge importance when we look at mental health. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. But these changes do not happen overnight.  Much like our mental health, it takes time. Adding a small amount of physical exercise into your daily routine can only improve your mental health. It improves confidence, self-esteem, energy levels, sleeping patterns, food choices, mood, stress and anxiety levels and improves social life.

Find a form of exercise you love to do, and go do it.

Let out those happy hormones and enjoy yourself.

-Alison Hayes

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