Exercise and mental health

 

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It’s no secret that exercise is good for your health .  For years, scientists and physiotherapists alike have been advocates for the benefits of regular exercise to reduce the risk of health problems ranging from high blood pressure and stroke, obesity and diabetes.

People that exercise regularly do so not just to get stronger and more fit, but also to get that “feel good” factor. Exercise offers a sense of achievement, aids in improved sleep and promotes a feeling of well-being in oneself.

A study by Chekroud et al (2018), looked at the association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals, and found that those who took regular exercise saw a huge 43% drop in the number of days per month of poor mental health experienced, relative to those who took no exercise at all.

But how does exercise have an effect on your mental health?

Exercise causes the release of the “feel good” chemicals in the body called endorphins and serotonin.

Endorphins interact with the brain and reduce the perception of pain. They are manufactured in the brain , spinal cord and other parts of the body and trigger a positive feeling in the body that can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Serotonin is often referred to as “the happy chemical” because it contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. It is mainly found in the brain, bowel and blood and is thought to play a role in the regulation of  emotions, appetite, movement and cognitive functions, with low levels of serotonin being linked to depression.

It is therefore not hard to understand how regular exercise has been shown to have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety , ADHD and much more.

So how often should we be exercising ?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) developed guidelines called “Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health”.

In this they recommend that children and youths aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.

18–64 and older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. They also recommend muscle-strengthening activities, involving major muscle groups,on 2 or more days a week to maintain optimal bone and muscle strength.

You can reach this by exercising for 30mins a day, 5 times a week. Finding it difficult to fit 30 mins into your schedule? Don’t worry, its ok to break things up. Two 15min workouts per day can be just as effective.

The main message with exercise is to find something that you enjoy. As they say, variety is the spice of life, so whether it’s salsa dancing , running,  or walking with friends, finding exercise that you enjoy will make it easy and seamless to fit into your everyday life, and hopefully will become a part of your routine that you simply can’t manage a day without. 

Look after your body, look after your mental health,lay the foundations for a healthier future-  stay moving. Regular exercise benefits us in a multitude of ways, so what’s not to love 😊

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