How Exercise Impacts the Brain
There are a lot of beneficial effects of exercise on mental health. On top of keeping your body in prime shape and your heart healthy, it can also maintain your mental health. By exercising, you may even be able to reduce the effects of a mental health condition.
Exercising leads to increased levels of important hormones, endorphins, endocannabinoids, and dopamine, which can enhance positive mood. Neurotransmitters are commonly released during more intense exercise while your brain cells get an increased supply of oxygen. Finally, the neuroplasticity in your nervous system can increase, allowing you to handle external stimuli better. Some studies show there are positive effects on the brain’s structure when you exercise.
How Does Exercise Benefit Mental Health?
There are two main hormones in your body known to cause stress: cortisol and adrenaline. Exercising not only reduces these hormones, but it allows you to build up a resistance to stressors and stress hormones.
Also, by exercising, you increase the amount of endorphins in your body, which are the hormones that allow you to relax and feel better. So, besides increasing your resistance to stress and reducing your stress level while exercising, you are boosting your feel-good hormones. There’s a reason it’s called a runner’s high!
Studies have shown that the more stressed you are, the harder it is to combat illnesses. By reducing stress, you are giving yourself a better chance at overall physical health!
Increases Sleep Quality
Exercise allows you to work your muscles and mind so that you can feel more tired and sleep better at night. However, it isn’t just exhausting exercise that works. No matter what forms of exercise you do, you are more likely to go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer throughout the night. So whether it’s something like running a few miles or a relaxing yoga session, it can yield mental health benefits.
If you’ve exercised regularly before, you may have found that it helps to reduce any brain fog you might feel during the day. There is a lot of evidence that exercise can boost memory, focus, and clarity in daily life.
Regular exercise can even help reduce problems later in life due to memory and mental decline, slowing down or even preventing issues. Studies show that there is approximately a 20% to 30% lower risk of depression and dementia for adults participating in daily physical activity.
What Mental Health Conditions Can be Alleviated Using Exercise?
There are a lot of positive effects of exercise on the body and mind. One benefit is that exercise can help reduce mental health conditions and symptoms while increasing your psychological health. Extreme exercise isn’t needed for these effects to take place. Even moderate exercise is enough to allow you to reap the benefits and feel the positive impacts on certain mental disorders. Some of the conditions include:
Bipolar disorder can lead to bouts of mania and depression. Along with taking prescribed medication to treat the disorder, regular exercise can help them further manage symptoms. Plus, medications for bipolar disorder can have side effects, some of which regular exercise may mitigate.
Many people with anxiety take medications or go to therapy to reduce their clinical anxiety symptoms. One supplemental form of support is exercise therapy. High-intensity exercise seems to support those with anxiety to manage symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, and irritability.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Some of the most common symptoms for those with ADHD include struggling to stay focused, making impulsive decisions, and hyperactivity. By introducing a mix of cardio and resistance training into their exercise routine, folks living with ADHD may potentially mitigate the ADHD symptoms that impact daily life.
Depressive symptoms can sometimes be reduced by exercise. Benefits include fewer negative thoughts. After physical activity, people with depression also tend to have boosts of self-esteem and feel more satisfied with their lives. It might not be the singular treatment for depression symptoms, but it can help people with depression. Although all exercise may help, aerobic exercise seems to be the best at reducing symptoms of depression. Even a 15-minute walk can reduce major depression by up to 26%.
Regular aerobic exercise may help to reduce compulsive and obsessive behaviors that occur with OCD, allowing for less hassle and drugs needed.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD can lead to flashbacks and nightmares. Physical exercise may potentially lessen the symptoms by allowing for desensitization, increased brain function, and reduced stress hormones.
What Kind of Exercise Works Best For Alleviating Symptoms?
Yoga is a great, simple exercise. It can be good for beginners or those with experience and doesn’t require high activity levels. Yoga can help with depression and ADHD, as well as many sleep disorders. Yoga reduces stress and anxiety levels as it is both a meditation and an exercise. It is a great option if you have chronic pain, as it may be easier on your body.
Tai Chi is another great mix of meditation while also being an exercise program. It can reduce mood disorders, blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. It produces very similar results to yoga, so choose the one that works best for you.
There are many forms of exercise for aerobics such as cycling, swimming, running, and more. These are usually associated with high cardio activities that keep your heart rate high. For aerobic training, you don’t need hours of exercise. Even 5 to 10 minutes of exercise should be more than enough to show benefits.
This can be the hardest to get used to as it requires a certain physical condition for the exercise to yield the highest efficacy. It can also cause a lot of stress on the joints. However, with ample practice and the go-ahead from your medical provider, exercise sessions consisting of 5 to 10 minutes be helpful.
There are many types of exercise that will give you a good cardio workout. A stationary bike, elliptical, or treadmill may make it more accessible. These are available in exercise programs in gyms or classes, but can also be bought for use at home. If you don’t have the space, simple weight training requires only a few items and proves to be just as helpful.
Even simpler exercises that you can do in your daily life such as household chores can help. There are benefits to these, as if you have a busy schedule in your daily routine, it can be hard to find time to exercise. So making your household chores part of your routine can be helpful.
It should be noted that while exercise can help, it is always good to speak to a mental health professional to make sure you are getting all the support you need.