When we think about the many reasons it is a good idea to get some exercise, we tend to focus on the benefits to our physical health.
What We Already Know
We know, for example, that exercise makes us stronger. We know it increases our endurance so that we can play our favorite sport for a longer period of time. We know that exercise can help us control our weight.
All of those things are true and beneficial in many ways. But it isn’t just our physical health that can be improved by regular exercise. It turns out that regular exercise can provide excellent support for our mental health as well.
That is good enough news that it might even encourage the most reluctant among us to get up and get moving. But just in case you are not quite convinced, let’s dig into the details.
What the Doctors Have to Say About Exercise and Mental Health
In an article titled “Exercise for Mental Health,” medical doctors Ashish Sharma, Vishal Madaan, and Frederick Petty offer a straightforward list of the benefits of exercise:
Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.
That is an impressive list of mental health benefits. But you may be wondering just what level of exercise we’re talking about here. Do you have to train for a triathlon to experience the benefits?
We are happy to report that the answer to that question is no.
Here is what Drs. Sharma, Madaan, and Petty have to say about frequency and intensity of exercise:
Thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking for 3 days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits. Moreover, these 30 minutes need not to be continuous; three 10-minute walks are believed to be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk.
You read that right. You can experience mental and physical health benefits by walking 30 minutes three days each week—and you can divide those 30 minutes into smaller chunks.
It’s starting to sound manageable, right? We are pretty confident you could add some short, brisk walks to your schedule.
Defining Nine Health Benefits of Exercise
The authors of “Exercise for Mental Health” list nine specific benefits of exercise that they believe are especially noteworthy. They include:
- Improved sleep: Getting enough quality rest is also a proven method for giving your mental health a boost.
- Increased interest in sex: This seems like a positive, right?
- Better endurance: This means you can enjoy a more active lifestyle.
- Stress relief: Lessening the impact of stress in your life supports your mental health.
- Improvement in mood: Elevating your mood regularly is an excellent strategy for staying out of the doldrums.
- Increased energy and stamina: This is similar to increased endurance, which means you can enjoy your favorite
activities for longer periods of time.
- Increased mental alertness: Really, couldn’t we all use a dose of increased mental alertness?
- Weight reduction: While losing weight is often primarily driven by food choices, exercise can certainly help with the process—and can help you maintain the healthy weight you have worked hard to reach.
- Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness: These are important health benefits for everyone, especially as we get older.
What We Are Not Suggesting About Exercise
We want to be very clear: It is not our intention to suggest that a regular exercise regimen will cause any and all mental health disorders you might be struggling with to simply disappear. Instead, we are emphasizing the ways in which regular exercise can be beneficial to both your physical and your mental health in the hope that you will include moderate exercise among your strategies for building and maintaining your mental well-being. Exercise is just one tool in the overall mental wellness toolkit.
Exercise Your Option to Get Mental Health Treatment
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we have the expertise, compassion, and experience necessary to effectively address mental health disorders. Whether you are struggling with anxiety, trauma-based disorders, or depression, we can provide personalized care that can improve your overall quality of life. If you are struggling, the time to get assistance is right away—and the team at Peak View is ready and able to help.