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Exercise can have a positive effect on mental health

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Falak Zehra Mohsin |

We all are well aware that exercise in any form is beneficial for our physical health. Doctors and medical professionals often recommend it to manage chronic physiological issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, obesity, and many others. It is important to note that exercise not only benefits our physical health, it can have a positive effect on our mental health as well.

One of the most common mental health benefits of exercise is stress relief. Stress can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, muscle tension, etc., which in turn further ass to worry and stress! This all ends up in a vicious cycle, and exercising can effectively break this cycle. Additionally, working out releases certain chemicals in our brain such as endorphins and norepinephrine which relieve tension in the body and moderate the brains’ response to stress, Thus exercise can help relieve stress.

Working out improves our ability to pay attention, focus, it reduces anxiety, increases relaxation, boosts creativity, helps regulate our emotions and so on and so forth.

Apart from having a positive impact on stress levels, exercise has been shown to improve memory function and thinking. A recent research showed that running sprints had a positive impact on vocabulary retention. Additionally, research has shown that working out leads to better cell production in the hippocampus – the area of the brain that is associated with memory, learning and emotions.

Exercise also helps boost our self-confidence and self-esteem. The awareness that we are not neglecting yourself and our physical help makes us feel good. To add to that, working out improves our physical appearance which greatly contributes to our self-esteem. Better sleep, improved sleep cycles, and greater energy are also positive effects that can be attributed to exercise.

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An increasing amount of research shows that exercise can not only help maintain good mental health but it can even be used in the treatment of psychological issues. For example, working out reduces symptoms of depression, it can maintain our mental health and reduce cognitive decline as we age, it can even help to control addiction. Regular exercise leads to stronger resilience – it helps us cope with life challenges without resorting to drug abuse or an emotional breakdown.

Engaging in an exercise which involves our limbs – both arms and legs have been linked to reduced symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To be specific, research posits that exercise especially reduces symptoms of hyperarousal in veterans who were suffering from sleep-related issues. Furthermore, outdoor recreation activities have shown to improve psychosocial well-being of individuals suffering from PTSD.

It is easier said than done – to commit to working out on most days. Many people complain that they cannot find the time to do so between work, social activities and household chores.

The above are just some examples of how exercise important and advantageous exercise is for our mental health. Working out improves our ability to pay attention, focus, it reduces anxiety, increases relaxation, boosts creativity, helps regulate our emotions and so on and so forth. Despite this, a good question to ask ourselves is how much should you exercise?

Studies indicate that three or more sessions of aerobic exercise or resistance training in a week, each lasting 45 – 60 minutes can help treat even chronic depression. The effects of such an exercise-related treatment program tend to notice about least four weeks and it is suggested that the treatment – i.e. the exercise program should continue on for at least 10 – 12 for the greatest antidepressant effects.

Read more: Prince William asks Lady Gaga to spread Mental Health Awareness

The above study targets depression and how exercise can work as an antidepressant, so for those who find it difficult to find time for a workout – do not despair! Even a few minutes of physical activity is better than not exercising at all – truth be told constant walking in a mall or while grocery shopping can be a good start as well. The idea is to start slow so that your body can adjust to engaging in physical exercise.

One should pay close attention to what their body signals – if your body tells you to take a break of 2, 5 or 10 minutes – do so. There is no denying that eventually, the more you exercise, the more energy you will have and sooner or later you will want to exercise. It is important to try and commit to some amount of moderate physical activity on most days.

Read more: 1.4 billion risk disease from lack of exercise: WHO

It is easier said than done – to commit to working out on most days. Many people complain that they cannot find the time to do so between work, social activities and household chores. For them – try and use the weekends. A recent study conducted in the UK found that people who manage to work out on weekends – one or two sessions during the weekend reap around the same amount of mental health benefits as those who tend to exercise more often.

Thus, it can be said that squeezing in one or two work out sessions in a week can be quite valuable for ones’ health overall. To conclude – just get up and get moving when you find the time – your mind and body will definitely thank you!

Falak Zehra Mohsin is Founder & Counselor at Holistic Minds (facebook page:@H0listicMinds), Visiting Faculty at IBA (Karachi). Twitter: @Falak_Z_M. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 


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