Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health. But How? - Activfirst
“If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.”
Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky – Genetic metabolic neurologist – (THE NEW SCIENCE OF EXERCISE, Time.com, 2017)
The power of exercise is an under promoted method! Especially when it comes to improving brain function and mental health. In the past this was due to a lack of research into the relationship between exercise and brain function.
But Neurologists/fitness enthusiasts such as Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky are on the case. There is an ever increasing body of research showing that exercise benefits your mental health!
Exercise Benefits your Mental Health!
Let’s get into the nitty gritty science stuff…
Your stress levels are regulated by your fight-or-flight response. This mechanism resulted in your survival up until this point. It is your brain’s natural response to danger.
If you were out in the Serengeti as a hunter gatherer, and you identified a lion heading your way, two responses would occur as a result.
Do I need to fight or do I need to run?
The result of this high-pressure situation is the following sequence:
- Production of cortisol is triggered in your body
- Physical exertion occurs- either by running or fighting
- Post exertion, your body starts to regulate itself (providing you survived of course)
- Cortisol levels decrease and return to normal
In the modern age it seems like we are bombarded with stressful situations. As a result our fight-or-flight response is triggered. Think road rage,work stress,financial stress!
With little to no necessity for physical exertion in such situations…
Where does the cortisol go?
Cortisol stays in our bodies keeping us stressed and wired.
Regular exercise helps our bodies and minds to regulate stress responses.
General Mood Booster
The feel-good chemicals in the brain are:
Furthermore a deficit of these chemicals can be found in patients with depression. Exercise boosts the availability of all 3 of these chemicals to your brain!
Studies have shown that 30 minutes of jogging 3x per week is as effective as some antidepressants. This is most noteworthy.
Increased Motivation and Focus
As far as the brain hard-wiring is concerned, it likes to be rewarded! If a task lacks personal gain, your motivation hits rock bottom.
The payoff chemical the brain looks for is called Dopamine. Hence a deficit of this chemical, results in lower motivation and focus.
So how can you super charge your Dopamine levels?
As stated in the title, exercise benefits your mental health!
Not only does it increase Dopamine storage it encourages a increase of dopamine receptors.
Exercise promotes a healthier stress response. As a result this boosts your mood, increases your motivation and focus… dramatically reducing anxiety!
So now that we’ve covered the why… let’s get to the how, what and when!
By undertaking 20 minutes of exercise a day you should start to notice some of the benefits on your mental health almost immediately.
Add 20 minutes of exercise into your morning routine and you will lower cortisol levels for the rest of the day.
This increases the availability of feel-good chemicals your brain requires to stay mellow! Obviously, this is the ideal scenario and can be difficult to achieve. What about that never ending to do list?
If you can’t fit exercise into your morning routine, the evening will still contribute.
No matter the intensity of your chosen work out, it will still benefit your mental health!
- 20-minute walk to work instead of driving
- 20-minute gentle Yoga routine will still boost your mood
- Swimming, cycling and running are great too
We hope that his post has encouraged you to consider how exercise benefits your mental health!
Aim to get your body moving consistently! If 20 minutes a day is too much to start off with, try 10 minutes every day. If you have a support network maybe ask if someone would start a class with you? In this way you can support and motivate each other. Always remember to be kind to yourself!
Medical Disclaimer *Please take note that the above is by no means a substitute for your Doctors’ advice. Always listen to your Doctors’ recommendations. This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such*
Bibliography: Time.com. (2017). The New Science of Exercise. [online] Available at: http://time.com/4475628/the-new-science-of-exercise/ [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017].