When we think to ourselves “I should really get to the gym…”, we’re usually looking at ourselves in the mirror. Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, both inside and out, but it’s also important to know that our mental health can also get a much-needed boost when we exercise. A study conducted over 11 years with 33,000 participants in Norway found that those who exercised as little as one hour per week had a 44 percent lower risk of developing depression during the term of the study than those who remained sedentary.
Four ways exercise is good for our mental health:
- Boosts Happy Chemicals One of the biggest benefits of exercise, in addition to fitness, is what occurs in the brain. Exercise releases endorphins which creates feelings of happiness and euphoria. In addition, studies show that exercise can alleviate symptoms in those clinically depressed. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant medications.
- Sharpen Your Brain As we age, cognitive abilities and memory decrease. Some type of daily exercise is vital to maintain brain function. Working out can boost the hippocampus chemical in your brain, helping to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s.
- Controls Addiction Dopamine, known as the “reward chemical” is released in the brain in response to pleasure – be it healthy activities such as exercise as well as unhealthy ones like drugs and alcohol. Battling addiction with exercise can help distract you from those wants, and can help you focus on more important things like working out.
- Alleviates Anxiety Just 20 minutes of moderate or high intensity exercise is proven to help reduce anxiety.
Exercising is a key contributor to good mental health, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Getting more exercise is not a substitute for other forms of treatment. If you’re struggling with symptoms of a mental health disorder, talk to a therapist or your family physician.