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Mental Benefits Of Exercise How Exercise And Mental Health Are Linked

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We already know that exercise is good for the body it improves cardiovascular health, restores hormonal balance, and reverses the ageing process. But have you thought about the mental benefits of exercise and their significance? The broader scientific literature gives enough credence to the idea that physical activity influences some of the most important markers of mental health, and it doesnt require Herculean effort to get started.

In this day and
age, it seems as though we need every coping mechanism available. Rising above
the responsibilities of yesteryear, our modern lifestyle puts a tremendous toll
on the mind as people suffer from restlessness, anxiety, depression and a
garden variety of mental ailments. Moving rootless in between shifting dunes,
we are in a desperate need of an anchor.

Fortunately,
exercise can provide an underlying stability, and clinically measurable
improvements in our mood.

Exercise and Mental Health

Thomas Szasz, a Hungarian-American academic, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, has claimed that most people have problems living, not psychological ones. After fixing these problems, the mental ailments usually subside with a symptomatic statistical curve.

Exercise And Mental Health

Admittedly, it
is borderline insulting to downplay the suffering of people and point to the
trivial, but a long nap, regular sleeping schedule, healthy diet and daily
meditation can often shrink the elephant to the size of an ant. Fortunately,
exercise belongs on the same list.

It is so much
more than just trying to look good. Underneath the physical, you will find
plenty of mental benefits of exercise as well.

One study published in The Lancet Psychiatry surveyed 1.2 million people for their mental health.

Compared to people who reported doing no exercise, people who exercised reported 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health each month a reduction of 43.2% (2.0 days for people who exercised vs 3.4 days for people who did not exercise).

Sammi R Chekroud, Ralitza Gueorguieva, Amanda B Zheutlin, Martin Paulus, Harlan M Krumholz, John H Krystal, Adam M Chekroud.Association between physical exercise and mental health in 12 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study.The Lancet Psychiatry, 2018;

Needless to say, staying active can greatly improve your looks and your physical health. It can help you shed pounds and add years to your life. But the habit of working out regularly can provide many more additional benefits that drastically change the quality of your life.

The enormous sense of well-being that comes with regular exercise is what motivates most people to get off the couch. Stress relief, better quality of sleep, sharp memory and improved mood all of these are reason enough to start moving.

Long Term Benefits Of Exercise

The
psychological benefits of exercise also include a profoundly positive impact on
anxiety, depression and ADHD these are the miraculous effects of exercise on
mental health. And the good news is that you don`t have to be a fitness fanatic
in order to reap the long term benefits of exercise. When it comes to exercise
and mental health, even a modest amount can do the trick.

Psychological
benefits of exercise

Moderate amount
of physical activity can have a significant impact on your mood and emotional
state. Here are some of the most common physiological benefits of exercise that
greatly improve the quality of life:

  • Better mood
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved self-image and self-confidence
  • Sense of accomplishment
  • Enhanced memory
  • Decreased symptoms of anxiety
    and depression
  • Active readiness instead of a
    passive disposition

So how much
exercise do I need to start noticing these mental benefits of exercise I hear
you asking in concert? Well, not much, it turns out. For long term benefits of
exercise, you should stay active at least 3 times a week for roughly about 30
minutes.

However, if
your current fitness level, injury, or age prevents you from achieving this
bare minimum, have in mind that even a brief low-intensity walk can do wonders
for your mental wellbeing. Walking for mental health is becoming an increasingly
popular concept as it has proven to increase energy levels and improve the mood
just like any other form of more intense exercise.

Social
benefits of exercise

Social Benefits Of Exercise

On an equal note, staying active comes with numerous social benefits. Confidence is a key factor to a good social life, and one of the biggest social benefits of exercise is just that an improved social life. When you feel good about yourself and have a positive social image, socializing becomes much more enjoyable.

Additionally,
exercising in a group or participating in team sports provides new social
outlets and an opportunity to meet new people. It also helps you develop better
social skills and greater empathy.

Physical
activity can also provide a release valve from pressure and stress, encouraging
greater production of endorphins. Not only will this improve your mood, but your
concentration skills as well. Consequently, improved concentration means better
focus on your social and work related activities and helping you become a more
fulfilled, happier individual.

Emotional
benefits of exercise

It is fair to say that when it comes to exercise, we dwell so much on the physical benefits that we overlook the array of emotional benefits that stem from staying active. Emotional health is a huge part of the puzzle that creates a happy and healthy life. So it should come as no surprise that regular exercise can play a crucial role in maintaining good mental health.

Preparing to run

Exercise therapy
for mental health has proven as an extremely useful tool in easing anxiety,
helping with depression and reducing stress.

But how does it work?

Physical
activity leads to relaxation of the brain which helps shift our focus on better
things than those making us anxious and stressed. Even more importantly, exercising
triggers all those hormones responsible for good mental health, the key ones
being serotonin (a lack of which can play a part in depression), endorphin and
dopamine.

So when it comes
to exercise and depression, activities such as running, biking and yoga have shown
to be most beneficial for serotonin production and, consequently, alleviating
the symptoms of depression.

Endorphins (the feel-good chemicals) are also primarily produced through cardio exercise, while dopamine is produced during and after workouts.

Finally,
exercise disrupts the continuity of negative emotions. Anxiety, stress, and
compulsive behaviours often exist in a staccato sequence break the sequence,
and their occurrence starts to dwindle. Cut the chain, and they reduce in frequency,
as well as potency, loosening their grip on your mind. The emotional benefits
of exercise are similar to that of becoming more aware through the practice of meditation.

Other reasons for adopting an exercise routine

Adopting A Routine For Mental Health

It is well documented that grounding oneself in a routine can have a positive effect on mental health. That is why unemployment, retirement and unlimited spare time are often detrimental to sanity. When the mind lacks a structured day, it starts to dwell in the abstract.

And here is where working out comes handy. You can have your daily session serve as part of a routine. Tie around it other activities such as taking a shower and preparing a healthy meal, and you have an additional anchor. If you need extra motivation, just read these motivational workout quotes.

Furthermore, one of the long term benefits of exercise includes acting with intention. Having in mind that it is not a compulsory activity, but one which requires effort, it can easily condition you to act by intent and volition, instead of inertia. Which is one of the most important mental benefits of exercise.

Conclusion

The link between exercise and depression,
anxiety or general stress is well documented. Next to pharmacology and
meditation, it is the only notable treatment that directly influences the
physical state of the brain.

The mental benefits of physical activity are measurable in a clinical setting, and therefore valid for consideration. Regardless of whether you struggle with something or simply want to employ preventive measures, the effects of exercise on mental health are undisputed. Fortunately, staying active for three days every week is all that you need in order to enjoy the mental benefits of exercise.

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Exercising After a C-Section

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After giving birth, many women wonder when they can get back to their exercise routine, but it can be particularly confusing for women who delivered via cesarean, or C-section.

“[A C-section] is a major abdominal surgery, and just like any other surgery, it takes time to heal,” says Blair Green, DPT, pelvic-health specialist and coauthor of Go Ahead, Stop and Pee: Running During Pregnancy and Postpartum. Typically, experts recommend waiting six weeks after surgery before restarting your exercise routine, but women who are recovering from a C-section may need to wait longer.

Not only does the incision itself need to heal before you can start exercising, but the core muscles — which are active in every movement we make — have to be retrained.

“If we cut through [our core muscles], they’re essentially ‘injured,’ and even though the injury was a surgery, they still need time to heal and retrain themselves,” Green says.

Here are some tips on when — and how — to exercise after a C-section. 

IMMEDIATELY AFTER SURGERY

  1. Protect your incision

“Initially, you want to protect your incision,” says Jennifer Joslyn, DPT, a physical therapist at Motion Minnesota who specializes in pelvic health. This means avoiding movements that could irritate the incision, like excessive twisting, bending, and lifting heavy objects. Ideally, you’ll avoid these types of movements for the first few weeks following surgery.

“Most women don’t feel well enough to even do much more than just household walking distances and taking care of the baby until about three weeks out,” says Elizabeth Chumanov, DPT, PhD, co-coordinator of the Active Moms Clinic at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Sports Rehabilitation Clinic.

  1. Practice diaphragmatic breathing

While you may not be able — or necessarily want — to exercise while you recover, there are small things you can do during those six weeks to help you begin restoring core strength and function. “One thing I always recommend is deep diaphragmatic breathing,” Green says.

Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped sheet of muscle that separates your chest and abdominal cavities, and acts as the primary muscle of respiration. It actually works with your abdominal and pelvic-floor muscles — a group of muscles on the bottom of your pelvis that support your pelvic organs and help with posture. This means that simply activating the diaphragm can help restore the function of your entire core.

But also that deep breathing helps you heal, because it transports blood and oxygen to your tissues,” Green says.

To do it, lie on your back, place both hands on your rib cage, and take 10 to 20 deep breaths. As you inhale, you should feel air coming into your ribs and abdomen. “And then, when you breathe out, you should feel your ribs funneling down and in, and your abdomen should drop,” Green says.

In an ideal world, you would practice deep breathing three or four times a day. That said, many new moms are simply trying to adjust to their new routine, and may struggle with adding anything else to their plate. So, Green recommends focusing on deep breathing for five minutes at the start and/or end of your day.

  1. Don’t overdo it

Light walking is OK, too, as long as there’s no pain, Green says. But if you were on bedrest for any length of your pregnancy, you’ll want to take greater care with starting any kind of activity — light walking included. “I know a couple of women who were on bedrest for six months of their pregnancy, and in those situations, I would not recommend waking up two weeks after you had a baby and going for a walk,” Green says.

AFTER YOUR SIX-WEEK CHECKUP

  1. Start with basic strength exercises

Once your OB/GYN has cleared you for exercise, typically six weeks after giving birth, you can start incorporating basic strength exercises like squats, lunges, bird-dogs, and planks. In the early stages of rebuilding your fitness, avoid high-intensity and high-impact activities like heavy strength training, running, bootcamp-style and metabolic-conditioning circuits, and plyometrics. You want to make sure your core and pelvic floor are healed and strong enough to handle those types of dynamic movements.

  1. Ease into running, plyometrics, and heavy weightlifting

If you’re a runner, Green recommends giving yourself eight to 12 weeks to recover and retrain your abdominal muscles, and starting with a run-walk program. You can also do low-impact cardio exercise like biking, rowing, or the elliptical to rebuild your fitness before you jump into running again. And if you do plyometrics or heavy weightlifting, wait three to six months, Green says.

  1. Pay attention to how you feel

When you do exercise, listen to what your body is telling you. If you experience pain, heaviness, or pressure in the pelvic floor, doming or coning in your abdomen, urine or stool leakage, or any pain or irritation in your C-section scar, this could be a sign that the exercise should be modified, Joslyn says.

If your abdomen pushes out during an exercise (referred to as “coning” or “doming”), for example, chances are your abdominal muscles aren’t strong enough yet to handle that exercise. Or, it may mean that you need to breathe or activate your core in a different way.

  1. Reactivate your core muscles

“When you’re pregnant, your body has to make room for your baby, and your tissues and muscles are stretching and expanding,” Joslyn says, “and so once you have your baby, initially it may be hard to find those core muscles again and activate them.”

To help women relearn how to activate their core, Joslyn recommends an exercise that targets your deep core muscle — the transverse abdominis. Here’s how to do the move:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground.
  • With your fingers, find your hips on both sides of the front of your pelvis. Then, move your fingers in 1 inch.
  • Inhale, keeping your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles relaxed.
  • Imagine there is a string in-between your hip bones. As you exhale, imagine that string pulling your hip bones together to engage your transverse abdominis.

Once you know how to reactivate your core muscles, you can better activate them during any other exercise.

  1. Try to be patient

Remember: Just because your doctor has cleared you for exercise doesn’t mean you’re mentally or physically ready, or that you can pick up where you left off before your pregnancy, experts say.

It’s important to adjust your exercises and timeline according to how you feel and steer clear of self-judgments that tell you that you “should” be healing or progressing differently. Some women feel great at their six-week OB/GYN appointment, whereas others feel weak and fatigued and may even be in pain.

“Everybody’s just a little bit different in terms of that [exercise] timeline,” Joslyn says.

Try not to rush into exercise, or chase the unrealistic goal of reaching your pre-baby shape as quickly as possible. Remember that your body went through a lot of changes during your pregnancy — and continues changing even after the baby is born. Rather than get hung up on ideas of reclaiming your pre-baby body or achieving an unrealistic post-baby body for you, practice the mindset of meeting your body exactly as it is each and every day.

“We need to respect the recovery time,” Green says, “and that often gets lost in the shuffle.”

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Stay Healthy And Active With These Fitness Tips

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Overall fitness isn't just about cardio. Although cardio is a major component of weight loss and heart health, it is important to incorporate strength training into your fitness regimen. Strength training builds muscle mass and helps you burn more calories post-workout. Follow these strength-training tips to amp up your workout and get a complete workout.

Alternative sports can offer people good fitness options for people, alongside the more regular forms of exercise. Free-running is a sport that emphasizes full body fitness. Climbing, running, and general agility are main requirements to free-run as you run, climb, and jump across many obstacles. Not only are they fun, but they unleash your inner child's desire to run and jump over railings, off the beaten path of adulthood.

Ankle and Knee Stability - Exercises To Build Lower Leg Strength
Source: Flickr

If you want to reach your goals in terms of fitness, then you need to work backwards. You should pick a date of completion for your fitness goals and work backwards, listing off all the short-term goals in between. This way you look at your fitness goals as deadlines.

The best way to get children interested in fitness is to be a good example and by being involved with them as much as possible. Try taking an exercise class, playing tennis or hitting a baseball together. Not only will you both benefit from the increased activity, but it's a great way to maintain a close relationship.

To help you include exercise into a tight schedule, you should walk whenever possible. That could mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator at the office or parking at the back of a large lot to give you a brisk brief walk to the store. When it comes to working out, every little bit counts.

Add resistance training to your exercise plan. Resistance training helps build muscle. The more muscle you have in your body, the more quickly and efficiently you can burn calories. Resistance bands or light weights are good options for working out at home. You can also use your own body weight to provide resistance. Exercises, such as push-ups and squats, make your muscles bear the weight of your body and that builds strength.

After every workout, one thing you may want to do is take protein. This can be either in the form of a protein shake, a protein bar, or basically any meat product. This allows for your muscles to recover faster from your workout and overall make your muscles grow larger.

Decide to walk for 45 minutes a day instead of 30. Walking for 45 minutes has been scientifically proven by Duke University to result in fat and weight loss. This can equal up to 30 pounds of weight loss per year for just an added 15 minutes a day. For maximum weight loss, try walking up a hill instead of down.

Obviously, there are many options when it comes to working strength moves into your fitness routine. Keep doing your cardio, but additionally, choose any number of the tips mentioned to keep your muscles strong and prevent injury. Not only will you increase your calorie burn, but you'll have awesome muscle definition to boot.

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Learn About Different Strategies To Improve Your Fitness Level

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Overall fitness isn't just about cardio. Although cardio is a major component of weight loss and heart health, it is important to incorporate strength training into your fitness regimen. Strength training builds muscle mass and helps you burn more calories post-workout. Follow these strength-training tips to amp up your workout and get a complete workout.

If you're just starting out with exercise, start out slow. Don't jump in head first and try to run five miles without having exercised before. You can wind up injuring yourself and doing more harm than good. Instead start with a short walk and slowly increase the length and the speed. Before you know it you'll be running five miles without any problems.

When rock or wall climbing, a great tip is to purchase shoes that fit your feet so tight that you can stand, however, you can not walk comfortably. Wearing shoes this tight will: give you the best control; and will help you use your legs in the most efficient way. Using your legs is crucial when climbing.

A great tip for optimizing your fitness is to wear a heart rate monitor when you work. With a quality heart rate monitor you can track your heart beat to see if you are getting the best workout for your goals. Many can be worn as watches so they are not a bother to workout in.

Work your stabilizers out first! Generally weights like dumbbells can tire your muscle stabilizers out first. A good work out plan uses dumbbells, then barbells, and then machines, simply based on how much the mechanism requires you to stabilize. Good balance and form are necessary for proper work out results and muscle development.

Your fitness program should include regular workouts with quality exercises. The length of the workout is not so important as what you do while you are working out. You should start at twenty minutes and gradually work your way up to an hour. You don't want to be exhausted when you work out or you will not get as much benefit from the exercises.

When you go to a vegetarian restaurant do not think that you have free reign over all of the options they present. Many of the foods at these types of restaurants are just as high in calories and saturated fats. This means you need to stay on guard about what you order.

There are three aspects to fitness that need to work in tandem in order to provide you with a healthy lifestyle. Each of these should be worked on and they are mental health, diet and exercise regimen. If you only work on one or two of these you will never reach your goals.

Obviously, there are many options when it comes to working strength moves into your fitness routine. Keep doing your cardio, but additionally, choose any number of the tips mentioned to keep your muscles strong and prevent injury. Not only will you increase your calorie burn, but you'll have awesome muscle definition to boot.

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