Posted on May 17, 2018 by Emily Forbes

It’s mental health awareness week for those of you who didn’t already know. Poor mental health is becoming a serious concern for many. Stress is a big contributing factor in the rise of ill-mental health. Stress itself isn’t directly a mental health condition. But our inability to cope with stress can lead to the decline of our mental state. And hence is the main focus of this years awareness week. Read on to find out how exercise can benefit your mental health.

  • Evidence shows there is a close link between physical and mental health. Poor physical health is a risk factor for poor mental health.  Equally, managing physical health conditions requires a good state of mental health. Therefore it is important we keep physically fit and healthy with diet and exercise.
  • Exercise releases feel good hormones like dopamine and serotonin which improve our mood. Common antidepressants work to increase brain serotonin levels. This is why exercise is described as nature’s antidepressant.
  • Stress releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. In a normal situation, these hormones play a vital role in our fight or flight response. But current lifestyles mean that we are in a chronic state of stress. This in turn is having a negative effect on the body (eg. high blood pressure). During exercise we release the same hormones. The difference being that it is an acute response.  The body is able to adapt to this with repeated exposure (regular exercise). The result is lowered amounts of hormone release over time. This then crosses over in a greater ability to deal with external stresses in our lives (improved stress response). We can describe it as a eustress rather than a distress as it has positive effects.
  • Exercise also has the ability to take us away from current stressors (work for example) and act as a “time out”.

So there you have it. A number of reasons not to skip your Monday morning gym session. Keep your body healthy. Keep your mind healthy.

Ieuan has written a great blog on mental health awareness if you want to find out more. And there are many others on how to cope with and manage stress.