Exercise has become increasingly important in the conversation around mental health, with researchers and clinicians alike recognizing its benefits. There's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to mental health, but if you're looking to give yourself a boost of endorphins and better manage your symptoms, exercise could be an effective tool for healing.
Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we decided to prepare this comprehensive guide and give you all the information you need about how physical activity can help with mental health and provide practical tips on getting started. So keep reading!
Introduction to Mental Health and Exercise
When it comes to managing mental health, the phrase “exercise is medicine” has been thrown around quite a bit. Exercise can reduce stress and improve mood, help us sleep better, and even reduce symptoms of mental illness such as anxiety and depression. For many people, taking the time to do some physical activity can be a great way to boost their overall mental health.
Endorphins are feel-good neurotransmitters that help reduce stress while improving your overall well-being. Studies have shown that physical activity releases endorphins into the body. Exercise also increases serotonin levels in the brain, essential in regulating mood swings and managing depression.
What Research Tells Us About Mental Health and Exercise
Mental health and exercise have a virtuous cycle effect — the more you exercise, the better your mental health will likely be, and vice versa. But don't just take our word for it — let's look at the research.
A systematic review evaluated hundreds of studies related to mental health and physical activity. The review concluded that engaging in physical activity can positively impact multiple dimensions of psychological well-being, including improving mood and decreasing stress levels. Additionally, for people with depression or anxiety, exercise can help improve their short-term and long-term symptoms.
Other studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve memory and cognitive functioning in people with depression or anxiety. Not only does exercising help reduce symptoms of these conditions, but it can also increase self-confidence and self-esteem by getting you out of your funk to start feeling better about yourself again.
How Does Exercise Impact Mental Health and Well-Being?
Exercise is an effective way to boost your mental health. You may have heard this for a while, but have you ever wondered why and how exercise can improve your mood?
Increase Oxygen Supply to the Brain
When you exercise, your body increases its oxygen supply. This means more oxygen is getting to your brain cells, which boosts their functioning and helps improve your focus and attention span. Plus, more oxygen is also beneficial for regenerating new neural connections in the brain.
Another thing that adds to improved mental health and well-being is neurochemical release. Working out releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that reduce stress levels, create feelings of pleasure, and help improve self-esteem. Exercise also releases dopamine, another neurotransmitter that encourages motivation and provides a feeling of pleasure or reward. Additionally, endorphins help control our sleep cycles which improves our overall mood.
Finally, regular physical activity helps increase neuroplasticity in the brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. This can lead to improved cognitive skills, such as better memory and multitasking skills.
Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health
Exercise isn't just good for your body — it's also great for your mental health! Here are some of the mental health benefits you can get from exercising:
Relieves Stress and Improves Mood
Physical activity is a natural way to reduce stress and improve and balance your mood, whether taken up as a hobby or something you do for fun. Exercise produces chemicals that help improve your mood, such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.
Improves Your Self-Esteem
Exercising regularly can also boost your self-esteem and give you the confidence to tackle whatever the world throws at you. It's like an internal power-up — you start to believe in yourself more, which makes it easier to make positive changes in other areas of life! And when you feel better about yourself, it's easy to also feel better about your life overall.
Promotes Better Sleep
Want a good night's rest? Exercise can help with that too! In fact, studies have shown that regular physical activity can lead to improved sleep quality and longer sleep time.
Sharpens Your Memory and Thinking
When we work out, our brains get sweating too! Physical activity increases oxygen levels in the brain and promotes nerve cell growth, which helps with memory recall, learning new skills more quickly, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities. So next time you hit the gym or go for a jog, think about developing more than just physical endurance — use this time for mental sharpness too!
Strategies for Building a Sustainable Exercise Routine
When it comes to fitness, consistency is key. It can be tough to start and keep going with a routine — and even tougher when dealing with mental health challenges. We'll share a few strategies to help establish a sustainable exercise routine as painless and as enjoyable as possible.
We know going all-in on the first day is tempting, but let's not do that here. Start small and work your way up gradually when starting any new program. Starting small doesn't need to mean 15 minutes of walking every other day or ten squats three times a week, either. It can be anything that fits your lifestyle. Maybe that’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away from your destination — any little action counts!
Creating achievable goals can help maintain motivation when starting any fitness program — especially if you’re struggling with mental health challenges. Keep your long-term goals in mind but break them down into short-term mini-goals to make progress more attainable, like joining a sports league, training for a 5K race, or simply moving your body for at least 15 minutes each day. Short-term objectives will give you something to strive for and will keep you motivated for the long haul.
By starting small and setting realistic goals, you’ll be well on your way to creating a sustainable exercise routine for better mental health!
Managing Expectations: The Relief That Exercise Can Provide
Exercise is a great way to manage your expectations and take a break from all the stressors in your life. When you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, exercise is something you can turn to that will let you focus on yourself and your health and well-being. Some movements will make a difference no matter how much time you can spare.
You don't need to become an athlete overnight — starting slowly and finding a routine that works for you is essential. Here are a few tips for managing expectations when it comes to exercise:
- Find an activity that fits your lifestyle and personality, whether running, Lagree, biking, or swimming — whatever works for you.
- Be realistic about what you can do; start gradually with just ten minutes of activity at a time, then build up as your body allows.
- Set achievable goals: instead of aiming for an unattainable goal like running a marathon in three months, start with something more doable, like running 5K or taking ten yoga classes within the next two months.
- Reward yourself for accomplishments — not just measurable goals but also smaller successes like finishing a class or running one mile without stopping.
- Stay focused on progress rather than perfection; don’t be too hard on yourself if something is taking longer than expected or progress isn’t coming as quickly as you hoped!
By setting manageable expectations and maintaining realistic goals, exercise can become more than just physical movement: it becomes an emotional tool that helps lift the blues and brings balance into your life.
Maintaining a Positive Mindset Through Exercise
Now that you know how exercise can help boost your mood and mental health, it's important to understand how to maintain a regular physical activity habit. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your workouts:
Create a Plan
Creating a plan for yourself and sticking to it is critical for maintaining a consistent routine. This might involve setting goals and objectives, keeping a schedule, working out with friends, and/or joining an exercise/fitness class.
Adjust Goals as Needed
It's OK to adjust your goals as necessary; start small and work your way up. Remember, progress takes time — progress is progress!
Tracking your progress helps you recognize big or small successes and keeps you motivated. It also allows you to recognize any potential stumbling blocks so that you can adjust accordingly.
By taking the time to plan ahead and remain mindful throughout your journey, you'll be able to reap the many benefits that come with exercise. All it takes is dedication, consistency, and, most importantly — positivity!
How the Lagree Community Can Help You Improve Your Mental Health
If you want to take your workout routine to the next level and maximize your mental health benefits, joining the Lagree community is a great option. This unique fitness community offers access to specialized studios and instructors worldwide dedicated to helping people bring Lagree into their lives. With classes from beginner level all the way up to advanced, you can find a class that suits your needs and goals.
Plus, Lagree classes are designed with mental health in mind. All exercises focus on proper form, breathing, relaxation, and meditation techniques that can help you focus your energy so that it's productive and calming at the same time. And since there’s no impact on joints or ligaments, it’s an ideal exercise regimen for those with chronic pain or conditions like fibromyalgia.
The Lagree community also offers lots of support — from nutrition advice to connecting with other members who understand what working through physical or mental challenges is like. All of these aspects make Lagree a great choice if you want to get the most out of your workout and find lasting mental health benefits.
The best approach to curing the blues with exercise is finding what works for you and then taking it a step further.
There are so many forms of exercise out there that can help with reducing stress, boosting energy, and improving your mood. Whether it’s yoga, running, or lifting weights, finding an exercise that fits into your lifestyle and focusing on making it a regular part of your routine will help you to reap the mental health benefits of exercise.
Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also be helping to create long-term positive change. So, lace up your sneakers and get moving! Start strength training with Pilates Plus LA!