How does Exercise Affect Mental Health?

A woman doing yoga at the end of a pier overlooking a beautiful mountain scene

Exercise is one of the best ways to naturally improve your mental health. While it may be hard to motivate yourself to exercise when you’re feeling the effects of depression, anxiety, and other stressors, there really is no better way than working out to relieve the immediate symptoms of such negatives to your mental health. Read on to learn just how effective exercise is at improving your mental health.

Exercise’s Effect on Anxiety

Whether it’s a chronic condition or due to an upcoming stressor such as a test, anxiety can have many negative effects on you. You may find it hard to focus, suffer from anxiety attacks, get tension headaches, or experience other negatives of anxiety. When experiencing anxiety, people tend to tense up – whether consciously or unconsciously – and exercise relieves this tension. It also relieves stress and helps shift your focus off whatever is causing you anxiety.

Another benefit is that exercise releases endorphins. This chemical is the biggest promoter of happiness and positive feelings in the brain, so you’re likely to feel a lot better after a good workout.

And if your anxiety is keeping you up at night, exercise can help with this as well. By tiring out your body during the day, your body’s need for rest and recovery may outweigh the distracting effect of your worrisome thoughts at night.

Exercise’s Effect on Depression

As good as exercise is at relieving anxiety, it’s even better at relieving depression. The release of endorphins caused by exercise is important for getting through a time of depression because it can bring your emotions to a neutral or even happy level. And if there’s something on your mind that’s causing you to feel depressed, exercise provides you with a good distraction.

There’s also another incredibly important way that exercise relieves the effects of depression. Ever feel pressure or pain around your heart when you’re very depressed? Exercise is the most effective way to relieve this feeling.

The reason for that pain/pressure is that when you feel that high level of depression, your body gets the impression that something is very wrong. Your base instincts interpret this as danger, and so begin to prep you for fight-or-flight mode.

During this prepping phase, your body begins to get your heart ready for fight-or-flight. Whether you choose to fight or to flee, you’re going to need an increase of blood flow to effectively escape the danger. To make sure that you can get away or win the fight, your body increases its production of norepinephrine and cortisol, which increases your blood pressure and affects your heart in other ways. But if you don’t actually fight or flee, you won’t use or process the norepinephrine or cortisol; it will essentially just build up around your heart, thus causing that uncomfortable pain/pressure.

The best way to get rid of this excess cortisol and norepinephrine is to get your heart pumping. By exercising, you’ll reduce your norepinephrine levels, increase your endorphin levels, and process the excess cortisol in your system, thus relieving the pressure/pain and improving your mood.

Exercise’s Effect on PTSD

Studies have shown that exercise can also reduce the negative effects of PTSD and trauma. In addition to providing a distraction, exercise also benefits your nervous system. PTSD may make people freeze up or otherwise experience their trauma taking over their body. By exercising, people suffering from PTSD can gradually reduce this immobilizing effect and reduce their stress overall.

Exercise can also benefit your mental health in other ways. It can help with ADHD, improve self-esteem, improve your concentration, and help you combat addictions. Whatever negative you’re experiencing to your mental health, you can help balance it out with the positives of exercise.

If you’re ready to start improving your mental health through exercise, visit Texas FITT today. They have all the gym equipment you need for working out, and they also have personal trainers who can help you develop the most effective workout routine for improving your mental health.