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Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Tiffany D. Kriz, PT, DPT, CHC

Mental Health Benefits of ExerciseWhy should I exercise? Many people ask this question especially those that do not “like to exercise.” So why should they? Why should you? Exercise has many benefits including strengthening bones and muscles, improving cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of heart diseases, helping to manage blood sugar and insulin levels, reducing the risk of falls, improving sleep, reducing the risk of some cancers, helping you quit smoking, and improvement of your mental health. Let’s discuss in detail the importance of exercise for mental health.

Mental health – how can exercise improve my mental health? First, exercise can improve your mood. When we exercise the body pumps blood to the brain to help you think more clearly. Also the mood boosting chemicals called endorphins are released as we exercise. These endorphins are powerful chemicals that energize your spirits and make you feel good. When you exercise outside you can come in contact with other people which helps to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Exercising regularly can reduce stress along with symptoms of depression and anxiety. The changes in the brain that occur are reduced inflammation, neural growth, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise can also distract you by breaking the cycle of negative thoughts with quiet time. Physical activity helps to relax muscles and decrease tension throughout the body.

Secondly, it can help keep your thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp as you age. Increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for memory. Increases the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This growth of new brain cells helps to decrease age related decline of the brain. All of this helps to improve memory and protect against injury and disease (dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s). Exercise releases endorphins that are proteins that help with the structure and function of your brain. These endorphins allow you to concentrate and feel mentally sharp for daily tasks. Specifically, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are released and affect focus and attention.

You might be thinking “how do I overcome the barriers to starting an exercise regimen”. These barriers include feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, hopeless, bad about yourself, or discomfort. Studies show that exercise can reduce fatigue and increase energy levels. Exercise helps us do everything better so even when we are overwhelmed exercise will help us do everything we need to. Generally, we are our own worst critics and recall that even when we are starting at the “bottom” the littlest fitness goals can be achieved. If you have an injury or illness make sure you talk to your health care provider for proper guidelines to exercise. Even with discomfort you can do something that will provide benefit.

Lastly, how much exercise do you need? Most experts agree that approximately 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise is the gold standard. This can be broken down into 3 – 10 minute increments or 2 – 15 minute increments. Even if you have to stop after 5 or 10 minutes it is okay, start slowly and gradually progress the duration of your exercise to increase your endurance. The most important aspect of an exercise routine is consistency. Commit to a regular regimen of physical activity. Also, schedule your workout when you have the most energy. This regular activity is an investment in your mind and body. As it becomes a habit, it increases your feelings of self worth helping you to feel strong and powerful. As we say at Kriz Physical Therapy, PA “Your health is an investment not an expense!” If you have any questions regarding your ability to start or how to start an exercise program please let us know. We are happy to help you start your journey to a better YOU!

Contact Kriz Physical Therapy Today!

27180 Bay Landing Drive, Ste. 7
Bonita Springs, FL 34135
(239) 992-6700

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