Does Exercise Really Help Improve Mental Health?
As we celebrated 'Mental Health Day' this week, here at The House Clinics, we are very aware of the strong link between a healthy body and a healthy mind. Whether you’re suffering from mental health or not, exercise is a fantastic way to get that feel-good feeling. Exercise stimulates positive endorphins, clears your head, and can dramatically lift our mood.
It’s only very recently that scientists have started to research how vital exercise can be, to both our physical AND mental wellbeing.
- New research suggests that in 12% of cases of depression, a significant improvement could be made with just an hour of exercise each week.
- If you can increase that to 3 sessions of exercise a week, your risk of depression could even be slashed by 30%. (Published research by the Department of Health, October 2017)
Knowing the Mental Benefits of Exercise Can Be A Great Motivator...
Don’t let the word 'EXERCISE' put you off before you've even started! The word exercise doesn’t have to mean hours slaving away in the gym getting all hot and sweaty. Exercise for you, could mean getting outdoors with a brisk walk around the block, a gentle pilates class or swim, or even a stroll with friends, grabbing a coffee at the end as an incentive. The key is to start slow, and as you feel the benefits, you'll want to do more.
It's so important to be motivated to exercise for the mental benefits as well as the physical. Sure, we might all hope that the exercise we’ve started might trim our waistline, tip the scales in the right direction or even transform the beer belly to an ipressive six-pack! But after any form of exercise, when the breathlessness has eased and your face has returned to a slightly normal shade of colour, it’s that sense of achievement that you've pushed yourself and given it a go that can really help you to feel better about yourself and face the day. The mental benefits might not necessarily be measurable in the same sense that the physical ones can but, they are real and just as important.
Can Exercise Help With Stress?
Have you ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? When we feel under pressure, everything starts to feel a little overwhelming and our bodies can tke the hit. Your muscles may start to tense, especially in your jaw, neck and shoulders. This might lead to you suffering with back and neck pain, or even painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, muscle cramps or an upset tummy. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms, can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body. Research has shown that exercise is clinically proven to stimulate a 'happy chemical' called 5-hydroxytryptamine (otherwise known as serotonin). As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical exercise helps to release tension in the muscles. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so will your mind.
Does Exercise Help with Depression?
Yes! Studies have shown that exercise can treat depression as effectively as an antidepressant. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirit and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
Here at The House Clinics, we highly advocate gentle exercise classes like yoga and pilates which encourage 'mindfulness' and the skill of 'grounding down' to combat feelings of stress, depression and associated anxiety.
These forms of exercise are not only brilliant for core strength and combatting back problems, but enable you to switch off from negative thought patterns. You can also practise mindfulness in your everyday activites. For example, try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground as you walk, or the rhythm of your breathing as you drive your car, or the feeling of being grounded when you're sitting at your desk at work. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body, how it feels as you go about your day, and focussing on your breathing, can be really theraputic for your body and mind.
If you need advice on how to begin an exercise programme or exercise safely, or have any pain issues which prevent you from exercising, here at The House Clinics, we would love to help you get on a healthy mind exercise track!
Call us now on 0117 9420200 to book a complimentary consultation to discuss your needs, or book online.