For a long time now, the benefits that exercise can have on physical health has been widely researched. It can help us lose weight, gain muscle mass and help us to live longer.
Recently though, the benefits of exercise for mental health has started to gain some mainstream attention and the impact it can have should never be understated.
When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins into our brain, which help to promote the feelings of happiness and positivity. It also helps to raise the hormone levels of our other happy chemicals.
Serotonin: Responsible for good sleep, happiness and wellbeing.
Dopamine: The pleasure hormone as well as reward and re-enforcement.
Oxytocin: Social bonding and love.
This is why they call it a “runner’s high”. Your body can have the effect or feeling of floating once your workout has finished and will carry you through the rest of your day. It does not always have to be a massive workout where you train until failure. Something as simple as a 20-minute walk can have a positive impact on your brain chemistry.
By raising our serotonin levels, we are also helping to ward off the effects that depression and anxiety can have. It is not the only thing that will be required to help with these conditions but exercise has shown to have a very positive effect in lessening the severity.
Refuelling Your Body the Right Way
Studies have shown that if an individual bases their diet around a more western or highly processed diet, the more at risk they are for developing psychiatric conditions such as depression or anxiety.
Conversely, if someone focuses their eating towards a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, high in healthy fats, nuts and fish with little to no processed foods (a Mediterranean diet) they are less likely to develop a mental health condition.
Exercise can have such a positive impact on mental health but it might not be the only solution. It is ok not to be ok but the best thing to do is to reach out to friend, family or your trainer and have that crucial conversation. Help is always available.