5 Ways Exercise Improves Our Mental Health

Veronika Gill

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It has become more apparent to us how exercise helps our mental health. Because let’s face it, we are not programmed robots that function based on some algorithm.

Our bodies and minds are intricately connected in ways that we don’t yet understand fully.

That said, we are beginning to understand more about the science of mental health. This understanding gives us some understanding of how to reduce anxiety, depression and negative moods by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.

When did health become so segmented? We have one solution for our physical health, another for our mental health and the list goes on. 

Mind,Body,Spirt

Exercise and Mental Health During Lockdown

As we dive into the second week of Lockdown 2.0, the media talk about a national mental health crisis. That is on top of a financial crisis and a pandemic, and of course our usual stress and worries of everyday life. No wonder that (according to a research by a mental health charity Mind) 60% of adults reported a decline in their mental health during lockdown.

Children’s Mental Health During Lockdown

But what about our children? Often, they might be forgotten as if mental health issues didn’t really affect them too much, because after all, they are just kids and have no “real” problems, right?

Do you remember when you were twelve years old and your best mate was grounded so he couldn’t come hang out? Or when you overheard your parents argue? Or when you didn’t have enough pocket money to buy those trainers all the cool kids had? Those were real problems, as real as all the adult problems you have now. Every day, kids fight inner battles that are as important to them as your adult struggles are to you, if not more.

Children do suffer mental health issues and I dare to say that their mental health is even more significant because they are at the stage of their lives when they are forming views and opinions, and trying to make sense of the world around them and their place in it.

Schools In Lockdown

As if that was not enough, nowadays, they have to follow a one-way system in school corridors, can’t mix with their mates from other classes, and are constantly reminded to sanitise their hands and pull their face masks up.

That sounds like a dreadful time indeed!

Regardless whether you are an adult or a not-yet-adult, life is tough, and life in lockdown is even tougher. So how does one handle it all?

As someone who won a battle with anxiety, I can share my (not really secret) recipe. It is very simple – exercise.

Yes, that simple!

Surely exercise cannot be the answer to the hardships of lockdown and the despair it often brings?

But it is!

Why?

5 Ways Exercise Improves Our Mental Health

Do you think your mental wellbeing could do with a health check?

Is more exercise something you could benefit from?

Try to see exercise as part of your routine rather than a chore that you have to do. Positive vibes around our wellbeing will help you in the long run.

With this in mind here are 5 ways exercise can improve our mental health.

1. Exercise improves mood

During exercise, your body produces endorphins – neurotransmitters that reduce the perception of pain, are natural mood boosters and make you feel more optimistic.

Do a workout and if you don’t feel better by the end of it, i’ll eat my boxing gloves!

The “feel-good” chemicals simply won’t allow you to feel down.

By the way, there are other ways to activate endorphins such as laughing, meditation, or (I probably should keep this a secret) eating chillies or chocolate. Hey, easy on that Dairy Milk!

2. Exercise reduces anxiety and depression

During physical activity, chemicals are released which supress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that cause stress and anxiety.

There is a study that suggests that exercise can act as a substitute for antidepressant drugs. According to the research, exercise was found to be “equally effective”. Mind-blowing!

Imagine going to your GP with depression and the doctor asks you: “Would you like me to prescribe antidepressants, or a brisk walk five times a week?”

3. Exercise is a distraction

You know the feeling of being overwhelmed and having a lot on your plate?

Try feeling like that during an exercise session. You can’t! When exercising, your brain focuses on what your body has to do (especially when you are learning a new martial arts move) so it has no time to worry about anything else.

Hence, exercising is a nice break for your tired brain. It is the best and the most productive way to break the cycle of feeling worried and unhappy.

For me personally, exercise brings an amazing sense of freedom; I wrote more about it in my running blog.

4. Exercise reduces tiredness and increases energy

That doesn’t make sense, right?

Exercise should make you tired because you consume energy while doing it. Yes, perhaps, but your body rewards you with feeling energised and charged up.

That is if you chose something slightly more sensible than running an ultra-marathon of 26.2 miles+, because (take my word for it) that just leaves you drained on every level. So everything in moderation as they say.

5. Exercise increases confidence

Fact! Have you experienced a sense of achievement at the end of a workout session or a bike ride?

Exercise makes you feel strong and powerful, things you never thought you could achieve.

If you have done the NHS Couch to 5K programme, you probably still remember the (addictive) sense of accomplishment you felt at the end of the programme as you ran your first ever 5K.

These feelings lead to an increase in self-confidence.

An added bonus is that healthy self-esteem allows one to see the world in a more positive light which is what we all need right now. because quite often you surprise yourself and achieve

Yes, I totally understand that when you have a lot on your plate and feel overwhelmed with worries, exercise is the last thing on your priority list.

But it has been proven a million times over that exercise will help you relieve stress and tackle mental health struggles, so you should make exercise more of a priority. You will feel great and the world will seem brighter – I promise.

So get up and go for a brisk walk with your kids, try jogging or cycling, and encourage your little ones to log into our online classes because exercise will help them ease the mental burden of lockdown.

And you know what?

Why not join in yourselves?!

You don’t need Martial Arts experience to jog on the spot during a warm-up and throw a punch or kick here and there.

So hurry up, find your tracksuit bottoms, put them on and get moving…

You will feel strong and positive because your inner warrior will be released to jump over any lockdown obstacles.

You can do it!

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