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How Physical Fitness Can Improve Your Mental Health

How Physical Fitness Can Improve Your Mental Health

May 11, 2022

The physical benefits of exercise are well-known and well-documented: weight control, reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, and lower blood pressure. But what about the effects it can have on your mental health

“Research shows that physical fitness and mental well-being are linked,” said Lindsay Rice, Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist. “Regular exercise can ease symptoms of conditions such as anxiety and depression, making it a vital tool for people seeking to better manage their mental health.”

While it’s not a cure all, physical activity can improve your psychological state and overall well-being in a number of ways.

Enhanced mood and energy

Exercise is a natural mood booster—it increases levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. The endorphins generated during a good workout create feelings of happiness and can even combat symptoms of chronic illness, such as clinical depression. 

Better memory and cognitive performance

Physical activity works to sharpen your brain and executive function, including your memory, attention, and concentration. 

“In older adults, exercise has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that navigates emotion and stores memories,” said Rice. “Staying active is important at all stages of life, but especially as you age.”

Reduced anxiety

Moderate to vigorous exercise can be a helpful antidote to anxiety in a number of ways. Not only will it divert your attention away from stress-inducing thoughts, but physical activity also loosens tight muscles and reduces tension. Overcoming exercise goals and challenges can boost your confidence and provide an outlet for healthy coping. 

Improved sleep

It’s a no-brainer that working out tires you out. Exercise has the added benefit of regulating your circadian rhythm, helping you stick to a regular sleep schedule. By elevating your body temperature, you’re also primed for relaxation and restful sleep.

The general rule of thumb for adults is to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day for three to five days a week. Smaller amounts of physical activity or lower-impact activities can also make a difference for those who are just beginning their fitness journey.

If you’re concerned about integrating exercise into your routine or simply need help getting started, schedule an appointment with your health care provider. 

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Fitness, Behavioral Health