Posted on March 30, 2020 by Kate Halsall
The mental health benefits we get from exercise far outweigh any others in my opinion. Whilst exercise and mental health are obviously closely linked, it’s easy getting caught up in the mindset that exercise is only there for fat loss and weight management or to help with stress. But there are more profound benefits of exercise on mental health which are more relevant now than ever.
When we exercise, chemicals in our brains called serotonin and norepinephrine are released. These neurochemicals work in a similar way to anti-depressants and significantly boost our mood. Serotonin specifically (also known as the happy chemical) makes us feel good pretty quickly!
Reduction of Stress
Along with direct chemical action in the brain, exercise will also subdue the ‘fight or flight’ part of our nervous system and can dramatically lower stress levels.
Along with the instant ‘feel good’ effect of exercise, it can also indirectly benefit our mental health in a variety of ways including:
- Improving self-efficacy – when we exercise, we get more of a belief in ourselves and our capabilities
- Improved self-esteem – exercise makes us feel good about ourselves!
- Better sleep – regular exercise can improve the quality of our sleep and increase the amount of deep sleep we get. Better quality sleep can help control stress and anxiety
- Improved libido – say no more
- A general distraction – if you’re exercising and working at a hard intensity, it’s hard to think about anything other than what you’re currently doing. Even if it’s a short respite from thinking about the stresses and strains of life, it’s worth it.
- Improved mood – try this for me…exercise everyday for the next two weeks and tell me your mood doesn’t improve…I dare you!
So if we’re certain that exercise WILL help us feel better directly and indirectly, what exercise should you be doing?!
For the next few weeks (due to coronavirus limitations), we are ALL limited in what we can do. During lockdown, I’d recommend prioritising exercise outdoors…this could be walking, jogging, running, cycling or a combination of them all. We’ve even got an outdoor HIIT session you could try! Maximise your outdoor rations and make sure you’re outside for at least 60 minutes per day.
Second to outdoor activity, home workouts are great, just something short and sweet to get a sweat on! We are posting these regularly on our Facebook Page.
Once we are all free to get back to the gym, I’d highly recommend a combination of resistance training and cardio based activities to make sure you’re covering your bases.