Exercise to Improve your Mental Health

mental health and exerciseClients often ask if there are non-medication routes they can take to help with their anxiety, depression, or other related disorders. While sometimes medication is absolutely necessary, we can sometimes make lifestyle changes that will suffice to improve our mental health or at least support and improve our outcome if we need medication, too. I highly recommend this all-natural treatment. The good news about it – it’s inexpensive and often free. The bad news? It’s exercise.

How Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

We all know that exercise is good for the body, but did you also know it’s good for the mind, too? Studies show that exercise can improve mood by stimulating the brain to create these feel-good chemicals:

  • Dopamine – the reward and motivation chemical
  • Serotonin – for peace and well-being
  • Endorphins – to relieve pain
  • Noradrenaline – improves memory, cognitive function, and tolerance for stress.

Exercise has been shown to help your mental health by:

  • Improving self-esteem
  • Reducing stress
  • Improving sleep
  • Increasing energy
  • Increasing stamina and resilience.

Best Exercises for Mental Health

While the very best exercises to do are the ones you enjoy and will do, there are many forms of exercise that can improve mental moods. Among them are:

  • Walking or other aerobic activity such as running or cycling
  • Yoga
  • Tai-chi
  • Strength/weight training

Starting an Exercise Routine

You’ve heard all this before and you know exercise is good for you. But how do you go about getting started on a program you will stick with? Try these steps:

  • Find a buddy to go with you. A friend will help motivate you and provide accountability.
  • Pick an activity that you like to do so you will want to do it.
  • Select another actitivity that you like so it doesn’t become monotonous.
  • Start slow and don’t set expectations.
  • Have fun and just do it!

Always check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program. And if you feel you need more help to manage your mental health issues, be sure to contact a support group or a good therapist to help you find your way.