Exercise is well known to be great for the body. It keeps you fit, healthy and improves quality of life, but…what about the mental benefits? With the recent focus on mental health with RUOk Day and the tragic news of Danny Frawley, it is timely to look at how exercise and mental health are strongly linked.
Mental health in Australia
Mental illness is very common with one in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experiencing a mental illness in any year. Almost half (45%) of Australians will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.
The most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety and substance use disorders. These types of mental illnesses can often occur in combination. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder could also develop depression, or a person with depression might misuse alcohol or other drugs, in an effort to self-medicate. Of the 20% of Australians with a mental illness in any one year, 11.5% have one disorder and 8.5% have two or more disorders.
We already know how good exercise is for your physical health. But do you know how good exercise is for your mental health? Studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as counselling and medication in the treatment of mild-moderate depression.
How does it work?
When we exercise, the brain releases the feel-good chemicals endorphins and serotonin. These neurotransmitters act on the brain in various ways to reduce pain, improve mood and regulate appetite and digestion.
Furthermore, exercise increases blood flow into the brain which aids in clarity of thinking and decision making. It increases the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in forming new memories and associated with learning and emotions. Exercise also increases the connections between nerve cells in brain, which can protect your brain against injury and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Exercise helps you sleep better, allowing your body to fully recharge and repair tissues so you feel more energised throughout the day. It gives you a sense of accomplishment as your fitness improves and you start achieving your goals. Exercise can often be a social activity which provides the added benefit of social connectedness.
It’s a no-brainer
So it’s clear the benefits or exercise far out-way the risks, but the hardest part is getting started. Especially if you’re experiencing a mental health condition like depression, where the idea of just getting out of bed can seem hard enough. Making exercise part of your daily routine can have a great influence on your mental health and should be a part of your treatment or management plan.
If you’re waiting for motivation to arrive at your doorstep before you start exercising, you might be waiting a long time. The secret truth of motivation is that it actually comes after you take action – not before. By starting small and experiencing some benefits, you give your motivation a chance. As you continue to exercise, momentum will build and before you know it you’re on your way to a physically and mentally healthier you.
If you are unsure as to where to start or have a niggle that you feel is holding you back and you would like advice on what you to do, book in to see a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist at Back in Motion Aspendale Gardens by calling 95801985 or online.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, seek advice from a psychologist, counsellor, doctor or even a friend. There is also number of great resources that can help: