What are the benefits of exercise on your mental health?

What is mental health? The World Health Organisation defines it as:

‘Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential; can cope with the normal stresses of life; can work productively and fruitfully; and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’

It is scientifically proven that exercise can improve your physical fitness, but it will also have an enormous benefit on your mental health. Studies have shown that 40 mins of moderate exercise three to five times a week will have the same effect on a person as anti-depressants.

We can therefore presume that regular weekly exercise at a moderate level will have a positive impact on depression and anxiety, which in turn will relieve stress, improve memory, improve sleep, and boost your overall mood. This will give a person a greater sense of well-being and their energy will rise.

However, it is important we accompany physical activity with eating a balanced nutritious diet. The beauty of fitness is that there are plenty of options. You may want to spend some time in the gym and lift free weights for 45 minutes, but you could also try cycling, jogging, swimming or team sports. Using a skipping rope in the back garden or taking on a HIIT session is just as good for your mental state as running 5 or 10k.

Raising your heart beat, breathing faster whilst getting a sweat on is all you need. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s very own natural antidepressant.

Exercise can give you a purpose and a direction. It cannot be said that taking part in physical activity will mean that you are happy all of the time, life still has its ups and downs. There are negatives that come with work and everyday life, and this is normal. The most relaxed care free person will still get the odd worry or nervous thought.

However, no matter what your age, if you take part in regular physical activity then you will not only become physically fitter, but your mental health will improve and you will improve your overall well-being.

There are plenty of podcasts, apps and articles on physical fitness and mental health.The NHS choices website has some great ideas and useful articles. The couch to 5k programme is a fantastic example and an ideal way of getting to a good level of fitness.

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