YOUR FREE PHARMACY: 5 Superb Mental Health Benefits of Exercise!

Exercise, especially during the pandemic has proven to be as effective as drug therapy when it comes to overcoming things like depression, anxiety and stress – and all without the negative side-effects associated with medication. The pandemic has impacted millions across the globe, affecting people in many different ways. As a result, the state of one’s mental health is now more important than ever.

Over two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) have voiced concerns about how COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their lives over the past few months, with stress, anxiety and boredom surfacing amongst the most prominent issues. There are a multitude of ways in which a person can boost their mental health, one of them being via physical activity.  Now we’ll will talk about key reasons why and how exercise can help improve your mental health in YOUR FREE PHARMACY: 5 Superb Mental Health Benefits of Exercise!

1. Highly Effective in Counteracting Depression & Anxiety

Studies show that exercise releases ‘feel good’ chemicals called endorphins that elicit feelings of joy and euphoria, relieving tension and reducing anxiety. A recent study involving almost 1,500 individuals with depression found that exercise or training had very significant anti-depressive effects. Regular physical activity is therefore a vastly effective alternative to medication and is highly recommended by doctors.

2. Improved Self-Esteem & Self-Confidence

Exercise gives you an excellent rationale and motivation for setting goals and targets. Gradually meeting these goals over time will give you a real sense of achievement. Before you even realise it, you’ll be lifting heavier, running faster and longer and just simply feeling much healthier than when you started. Not that you need to focus on it, but you might even see improvements when looking at yourself in the mirror or by how clothes start to fit you. These little things all play a part in improving confidence and self-esteem to keep on going and getting better and better – it’s a virtuous cycle.

3. Helps Overcome Addictions

Dopamine is released from the brain following any form of pleasure. Unfortunately, some people can get addicted to dopamine and the activities that stimulate its release, such as alcohol drinking, smoking or comfort eating. However, exercise also stimulates dopamine’s release, and again, is far superior than all other unhealthy activities combined. You can stimulate dopamine release with activities like running, football and resistance training, with either bodyweight training or weight training. Your options are endless!

4. Brings Stress Relief

Noradrenaline, also known as norepinephrine, is a chemical in the body that acts as a stress hormone and a neurotransmitter. Exercise stimulates the production of this chemical which can definitely improve cognition and mood. Additionally, when you’re stressed, you might feel physically tense and tight in your muscles leading to discomfort which only further compounds the mental stress that you’re feeling. Exercise can break this disturbance, creating perfect equilibrium between your body and your mind.

5. Improves Brain Power

Studies involving lab rats and mice have found that exercise can increase the levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This can help create new brain cells (neurogenesis) and lead to improved brain performance. This also has implications for preventing cognitive decline and memory loss.

For many of us, the pandemic has provided much adversity and our mental toughness has been repeatedly tested over the course of a year. We’ve had to get stronger both mentally and physically more than ever to get through it.

Physical and mental wellbeing go hand-in-hand, so it’s important to keep your spirits up through exercise. So, whether it’s taking a walk with your family, jogging with a friend, rowing on a Water Rower at home, or simply just becoming more active, keep it up and realise that you are your own ecosystem and that you need to keep your personal Kingdom Fit and in check!

Does anyone you know suffer from stress-related health problems? Please share this with them! How are you handling depression or anxiety over the pandemic? Let us know in the comments below, and join in the conversation on FacebookTwitterInstagram!

Myan Thomas

Myan is a recent Physiology and Sports Science graduate from the University of Leeds. He is currently embarking on a Masters in Football Science and Rehabilitation at the University of Central Lancashire. He's a very sports orientated person and enjoys playing football, tennis and basketball. The way in which exercise can lead to significant benefits in health and fitness really interests him and he is keen to share this knowledge with those who will really benefit from it.

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