Exercise for mental health

I have often heard it said that as little as 10 minutes of regular exercise can help alleviate depression. But even professionals don’t always make the link between mental and physical health. There are many reasons that physical activity is said to help mental health. It boosts mood, relieves stress and improves sleep.

Although the long-associated stigma attached to mental illness has faded in recent years, the services set up to provide assistance are still stretched and underfunded. With the caveat that exercise alone can’t cure mental health problems, it can be a significant benefit. A recent study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal in January 2019, supported the theory that physical activity is an effective prevention strategy for depression.

Dr Brendon Stubbs, head of physiotherapy at the South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust, says that one theory is that exercise has a positive impact on the hippocampus in the brain. This region is smaller in many mental health and cognitive conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

Just 10 minutes of light exercise has been shown to have a short-term impact on the hippocampus, and a long-term impact after 12 weeks. People with certain mental health conditions, such as depression, have also been found to have elevated levels of inflammatory markers, and therefore, one way that exercise helps protect against and manage mental illness may be reducing inflammation.

But despite the often-quoted statistic that one in four of us will experience mental illness, and despite knowing that exercise can help ease the symptoms, many of us are simply not active enough. NHS figures for 2018 showed that only 66% of men and 58% of women aged 19 and over met the recommended aerobic guidelines of 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.

This may reflect the fact that many people still see exercise as a chore. Although our perception of exercise is formed in childhood, 2017 statistics for Public Health England, found that by the final year of primary school, just 17% of children were doing the recommended amount of daily exercise.

In adulthood, exercise is often the first thing to be sacrificed, with the excuse that we don’t have enough time. In our busy daily lives, other interests often compete for our attention but none should be more important than our mental and physical health.

We must make time to look after our health and as these studies show there is no health without mental health.

Source: https://www.the.guardian.com


23 Jun, 2019

4 thoughts on “Exercise for mental health

  1. My doctor has been suggesting this for a long time, but for me it isn’t always as easy as just walking out the door.

    I deal with agoraphobia, which means I have a hard time going out of the house by myself sometimes. It just means that I need to make new friends who want to do those things with me, like going out walking or riding bicycles.

    I’m sure exercise would help to improve my general mood and health, seeing as I need to pay more attention to it. Maine is such a beautiful state, with so much to see and do, which other people pay fortunes to see so I should try to enjoy it more.

    1. Thanks Randy. Yes, Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. I hope you’re able to get help with that, so you can get out a little more, even if it is for a finite time. It’s all about small steps.

      Before mental health became a thing, exercise has long been known to help our mood, by exercise producing endorphins in the body that makes us feel good. That in itself is a good enough reason to exercise.

      That said Randy, you live in a beautiful state that is the reason why many people choose to holiday there, with so much to see and do. It would be a shame not to get out to go for walks, because you deal with agoraphobia.

      As you say, it would be a shame not to pay attention to something you know needs your attention. Has your doctor suggested ways of helping you?

  2. In my younger years I used to swim to reduce stress and anxiety. It was the seamless flow of strokes and breathing that seemed to put everything outside the swimming pool into perspective. I also enjoyed good health exercising in that way.

    So there it is, another blog that shows your genius for motivating your readers to improve their mental and physical health; I’m inspired by this.

    1. I am inspired by what you’ve written in your response Tim. I also believe swimming is a perfect way to let go of stress and anxiety.

      I know time moves on, life changes, and we move on to different things, but no matter our age we can still get some of that back, perhaps not physically in the way we were, because we are ageing, but exercise will always play its part in making us stronger mentally.

      That way we’re more likely to cope with stress better and staying mentally strong will help us continue to stay mentally healthy; and as long as we keep exercising we will also stay physically fit, no matter what age we are.

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