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How to Improve Your Mental Health With Exercise

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How to Improve Your Mental Health With Exercise

When we think about exercise, we often relate its benefits to our muscles and improving our sporting performance, but we often forget about it's benefits to the most important organ in our body...the brain.

The correlations between regular physical activity and improved mental health are becoming clearer as time goes on. Exercise has been shown to help treat a wide range of issues from stress and anxiety to moderate cases of depression.

Why is exercise so good for your mental health?

The main reason exercise is so good for your mental health is due to the release of the feel-good chemicals like endorphins. The effect endorphins have on your body is one of enjoyment and achievement and aid in the relief of pain and stress in the mind. The terms like "runners high" illustrate the short-term feelings of satisfaction that exercise can leave you with following the release of these endorphins.

Endorphins are one of the main chemicals that are responsible for how you feel about yourself. When these chemicals are released during exercise, they not only have an immediate effect on the current task at hand, but also improve your general mood. When completed regularly, this can help prevent any extended periods of low self-esteem.

The mental health benefits of exercise

The release of serotonin is one of the ways in which exercise and mental health come together to provide long last effects.

Training the brain

  • Exercise not only encourages the brain to release helpful chemicals but also helps train your hippocampus which is responsible for your memory, which is why exercise around exam periods can aid in recall and the ability to retain information. In addition, exercise allows for more connections between the nerve cell to develop which can help protect your minds from injury and illness later in life.

Exercise and achievement

  • An exercise program is a great way to introduce goal setting into your life and understanding the process of achieving those goals. This process can become addictive and can easily be adjusted to other parts of your life. You see a lot of improvement when you begin a new hobby or activity and so this constant sense of achievement can aid in your self confidence and overall self-esteem.

Lose weight, increase muscle, gain self esteem

  • A well known by-product of regular physical activity is weight loss and muscle gain. If you are struggling from body image issues, then introducing a regular exercise routine can help you feel a lot more comfortable in your own skin. If you are looking good and feeling good then this confidence will transfer into all areas of your life whether that be in school during exams or presentations or on the sporting field, having the confidence in yourself knowing all the work you have put in.

A good night's sleep

  • If you're struggling to get a good night's sleep, then exercise is an excellent option to tire your mind and body, but also release some tension and frustration. When you are going through stressful school or sporting periods, a lot of thoughts and emotions can be running through your mind, which influence your ability to get some sleep in. A regular exercise routine along with a consistent sleep schedule can reset your circadian rhythm and ensure your sleep is effective. A good night's sleep will not only aid in your physical recovery, but also your memory and ability to recall information, preventing those feelings of forgetfulness and cloudy memory.

For more information on all things strength and conditioning, check out our website and podcast (also available on Spotify and YouTube!).

Matt Hucul
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Inner Athlete (AUS)

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