Top six benefits of sports and physical activity on mental health
Online games have been proven to be a successful means of distraction for people struggling with depression and anxiety. Games can help to calm the brain and give the individual a rest from the intensity of their thoughts and feelings. However, if one wants to properly counter the adverse effects of mental ill-health, then they should undertake regular sports and physical activity. Need persuading? Here are the top six benefits of taking up some exercise.
Boost those happy chemicals
Exercise is a wonderful way to generate hormones that make individuals feel good about life. Endorphins are those chemicals that we produce when we are laughing and it is also the way our body reduces the impact of pain. When people go running they enjoy a high and the reason for this is that endorphin release. While the start of the run might be quite challenging and is super-painful, by the end one often feels lighter, more content with the world and will want to do it again. The good – or bad news depending on one’s viewpoint – the more intense the exercise, the better the outcome.
One can reduce depression
Harvard Medical School wrote in one of their newsletters that exercise is a natural remedy for depression. They went much further, they noted that exercise could be as effective as taking antidepressant medication.
How does this happen? Well, it is more than just boosting one’s self-esteem. Undertaking physical activity supports the growth of connections between nerve cells in the part of one’s brain – the hippocampus – that deals with mood. Therefore, with more connections comes a relief of depression and generally improves one’s mental health.
Reduce everyday stress
Unresolved stress can build like a residue in anyone’s system and create a much bigger problem in the future. Stress might at first feel like tension and frustration but can build to anxiety and anger. Therefore, one needs a means of helping their body to lift some of the stress they are feeling. Exercise, by increasing the heart rate, drains the impact of stress from one’s system.
The same is true with anxiety. Worries left to fester build to something much more debilitating. Studies have shown that the chemicals one produces during a workout session counter those produced when someone worries. Even certain low-intensity exercise sessions can do wonders to relieve feelings of anxiety.
Feel better about yourself
Even though there are deeper benefits to exercising than just physical appearance, how we see ourselves does impact our self-esteem and therefore onto our sense of mental wellbeing. Also, when one exercises they increase their strength and stamina, so they will feel like they can do more with their day. Therefore, when humans are physically stronger they also tend to be mentally stronger.
Helps to prevent cognitive decline
Our brain is a use-it-or-lose-it tool. If we are sedentary and do not require the body to work and the brain to think then it will atrophy. Therefore, doing something that keeps the body physically fit as well as mentally astute will be essential for keeping one’s senses together long into old age. When forced to strategise, to interact with others and use the memory, our brains are trained as hard as our bodies.
Exercise offers more than this though. It also promotes the regeneration of brain cells that certain diseases can destroy, such as Alzheimer’s. Taking up yoga, if something more physically active feels impossible, will encourage brain regeneration because one is coordinating different parts of their body and has to concentrate on the process of balancing.
Get out and about
Getting outside and soaking up the sunshine’s Vitamin D doesn’t harm either. When we go for a long hike, play football outdoors or practice yoga in the local park, we are also soaking up essential vitamins from the sun. The reason people struggle with SAD during the winter months is because of a lack of exposure to sunshine – that is how powerful Vitamin D can be.
There are also a host of benefits of gathering with other people in person. A lot of the problems of mental health now are caused by loneliness and an over-reliance on the endorphins triggered by social media. Therefore, getting together with friends and teammates on a regular basis – or joining a running club and getting involved in weekly circuits – can have a wonderful effect on one’s mental health. When one feels part of a community they will naturally feel a greater sense of happiness.
So, there are physical reasons why exercise impacts everyone’s sense of happiness and contentment. The exercise provides helpful chemicals and expels the damaging ones from our system. It also promotes connections between nerve cells. However, there are also other reasons exercise helps – it gets you outside and it encourages you to meet with people. It is the natural elixir to our modern life and can be all the help we might need to feel better.
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