Photo taken from the back of a teal kayak with a woman kayaking on a green Florida waterway.

The Link Between Exercise and Mental Health

It’s often said that a healthy body lies in a healthy mind. However, what most people forget is that it works both ways. Optimal physical health is just as important as mental well-being because when one is off-kilter, it affects the other. The past few years have seen a significant increase in the level of awareness about mental health. While therapy and medication may be the chosen way of intervention for some people, including exercise in one’s routine is therapeutic and has proven to improve one's mental health.

Understanding the Benefits

1. Exercise promotes the secretion of ‘feel-good’ hormones - endorphins.

Endorphins released during physical activity help alleviate stress and anxiety levels. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that interact with the receptors in the brain, helping to reduce feelings of pain and acting as natural painkillers. Moreover, regular exercise can increase the level of endorphins secreted by the brain over time, which reduces the chances of sudden dips in mood. This reaction to exercise is known as a runner’s high – an uplifting feeling that resounds long after the exercise is over.

2. Exercising helps manage depression.

Depression is much more than just feeling sad. It’s a complex mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, decreased energy levels, and a lack of motivation. Research has proven that increasing the level of physical activity in one’s life can improve symptoms of depression. Exercise helps by releasing endorphins, boosting the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and reducing immune system chemicals that are known to cause or worsen depression.

3. Exercise improves self-confidence, cognitive abilities, and self-esteem.

Exercise has a direct correlation with reduced anxiety and depression levels, and it also has an indirect correlation with improved cognitive abilities, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Individuals who exercise regularly have a better self-image and often feel more confident about themselves. Exercise provides a feeling of achievement, and gradual progress in physical activity can help one set and meet goals. In addition, it leads to the release of a protein called BDNF, which plays an essential role in learning and cognitive abilities.

4. Exercising during breaks is a new way of curbing ‘Zoom fatigue.’

The pandemic has led to people being more sedentary than ever before, with many adopting work-from-home arrangements. Online meetings, classes, and virtual workouts have become the new normal, and it has resulted in a term known as 'Zoom fatigue.' A few minutes of exercise can do wonders for mental health and help fight Zoom fatigue. Short exercise breaks during the day increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and help clear mental clutter, leaving one feeling more energized and refreshed.

5. Exercise and the power of socialization.

Regular physical exercise also has a tremendous social dimension to it. It can provide an opportunity for social interaction with like-minded people, diminishing social isolation, a significant contributing factor towards depression and anxiety. It leads to the creation of new friendships, while group exercise activities like Zumba or yoga create a sense of community and motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Regular physical exercise has enormous benefits that go beyond just improvements in physical fitness. Exercise, when included in one’s daily routine or recovery process, can be truly transformative. With research suggesting that even small amounts of physical activity can help, it’s an excellent way to demonstrate self-care and improve mental health. Together with healthy eating habits, sufficient sleep, and communicating openly, regular exercise is an essential pillar of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Our only goal at The Good Life Treatment Center is to help you or your loved one get better. We’re available 24/7, 365 days a year. Contact The Good Life Treatment Center today by calling us at (561) 250-8552 or filling out our secure contact form to start your recovery process!


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