Exercise and Mental Health: Start and Stay Moving in the New Year
Contributions by Megan Otto
As we begin a new year, emphasis is often placed on losing weight, eating better, working out and overall improving yourself. While so much pressure is placed on physical attributes, improving your mental health is sometimes overlooked.
Fortunately, research has proven that physical activity can not only help one’s body, but exercise and activity can also help improve overall mental health and wellness, too.
Exercise can help prevent a variety of health issues from high blood pressure to diabetes and arthritis. But according to the Mayo Clinic, there are also psychological benefits to physical activity, as exercise can help improve mood and reduce anxiety.
Chemically, exercise helps increase the levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. This improves and normalizes neurotransmitter levels, which helps us to feel better and release mood-boosting endorphins.
While this all sounds incredibly complex, achieving these feel-good chemical levels is actually quite simple. All you have to do is move your body – and you don’t have to be an elite athlete to do so.
Best Exercises for Your Mental Health
Aerobic exercise is one of the easiest and most common ways to enhance your mood, energy and reduce stress. And while the word “exercise” may make you think of running miles on a treadmill or lifting weights in a gym, there are simple ways to incorporate physical activity into your everyday life.
Gardening, washing your car, taking the stairs or going for a walk around the block during your lunch break are easy ways to get your body moving, heart pumping and boost your mood. While it’s great if you feel inclined to lace up your sneakers for a jog or head to the gym for an hour, any physical activity that gets you up off the couch can do wonders for your mood and overall mental health.
However, if you do decide to take things to the next level and incorporate regular exercise routines into your daily life, it’s important to listen to your mind and body to avoid overdoing it. If your body is not used to running five miles a day and you decide to jump right in, injuries can occur. Its best to pace yourself, set goals and build up to them.
No matter how you decide to take on the new year - whether it be joining a gym, tackling a new workout regimen, or simply by taking the stairs more often - remember the mental health benefits associated to exercise and moving your body. There’s so much more to a good sweat than burning calories or building muscle, relieving stress and boosting your endorphins are also key benefits.
Experiencing pain from an increased workout regimen? We can help!
If you’re looking for advice on how to work up to your fitness goals without sustaining an injury, or if you are experiencing pain from an elevated exercise routine, give us a call today! Our trusted physical therapists are here to help you manage any aches and pains you may incur while improving your mental and physical health.