The Impact of Exercise on our Mental Well-being

People often talk about exercise being good for us both physically and emotionally, but why is that? What is it exactly that makes exercise so good for our mind or how much of it do we need to do in order to feel those effects? Read on to find out!

Exercise and Your Mood

Many studies have looked at the effect of exercise on mood. One notable study asked individuals to rate their mood after both periods of exercise and periods of inactivity, then compared the ratings. They found that the mood of the participants was much higher after periods of exercise, particularly when the participants mood started off low. They reported feeling content, awake and calm. This demonstrates that even if you are having a bad day, exercising can help reframe your thoughts and put you in a more positive mood. It has been suggested that around 30 minutes of aerobic exercise for between 3 and 5 days a week demonstrated the most substantial increase in mood.

Exercise and Stress

When we exercise, endorphins are released which help the muscles to relax and in turn, relieves tension within the body. This positive impact on your body physically is highly likely to have a knock-on effect of feeling more positive mentally. For example, it will be much easier for you to get a good night’s sleep after a day of exercise, when you are relaxed and tension free.

Exercise and Self-esteem

Reaching exercise related goals that you set yourself brings with it a sense of achievement and accomplishment which will support positive thoughts about yourself. Exercise has also been shown to help build resilience, making life events easier for you to deal with, rather than being an instant knock to your self-esteem. Going for a run, walk, or dance, is a great way of handling situations that bring up negative emotions and is a much healthier way to cope than the more negative, frequently used alternatives.

Exercise and Depression/Anxiety

Exercise is often recommended as part of a treatment programme for those with depression and the effects are often underestimated. The fact that the NHS can now prescribe exercise, shows just how much doctors in the UK believe exercise can benefit you! One study found that running for 15 minutes per day, reduced the risk of major depression by 26%. Physical exercise has also been shown to reduce both mild anxiety and clinical anxiety, so given that it is freely accessible to everyone with no side effects, it’s a great option for everyone (no matter your mental health). The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend that those with depression take part in 3 physical exercise sessions per week lasting 45 minutes to 1 hour, for 10-14 weeks.