16th December 19

So, unless you live under a rock, everyone knows the benefits of exercise on your general health, fitness and body, but what does exercise do for our mental health? There is a growing movement in the UK towards exercising for our minds as a way to de-stress.

People are finally beginning to understand that exercise can and should be valued as a positive part of their lives. You may ask, “what if I hate the gym?” Don’t worry, you don’t have to be agym bunny to reap the benefits. It can be as simple as going for a walk outside, doing some yoga or swimming, or taking up a sport. Still sceptical? Read on.

Exercise can impact our lives positively in many ways; the simplest form is the release of hormones when we exercise such as endorphins and serotonin – both of which make us feel good. This on its own is a good reason to start exercising! In fact, a study asked people to rate their mood immediately after periods of physical activity and periods of inactivity.
Researchers found that the participants who had been physically active reported feeling more content, more awake and calmer.

Additionally, when people decide to exercise, they are encouraged to come into contact with other people. This could be through joining a sports club, attending a regular class or through walking the dogs. This prevents feelings of loneliness or isolation from building up as you become part of a community of like-minded people.

Feeling stressed beyond belief? Feeling run down and tired? Guess what; exercise can help with that too! When we are stressed our body releases hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These raise our blood pressure and heart rate preparing us for that ‘flight or flight’ feeling, which isn’t overly useful unless we are actually preparing for an emergency. This can make us feel a little on edge and irritable. Exercise helps to calm these feelings through the release of our ‘happy hormones’ as mentioned above. A study on employed adults confirmed these findings. It found that highly active individuals reported lower stress rates compared to their less active counterparts.

Exercise can also help with confidence and self esteem. As we find ourselves getting stronger or fitter, we are able to hit more milestones or goals that we have been trying to achieve. When we achieve goals, we can obtain a a good mental well-being. It allows us to feel better about our bodies because of all the great things our bodies let us do and achieve; whether its nailing a new deadlift PB or if it’s managing to walk a mile without feeling like your legs are going to give way. It’s not about what type exercise you do, its about actually partaking in exercise itself. Anyone can achieve anything if they try. Furthermore, the relationship between physical activity and higher self esteem is evident in all age groups and
in both male and females.

Similarly, exercise can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, through this boost in confidence and self esteem. Whatever your goal or motivation, exercise is proven to help with our mental health. It allows us to appreciate our bodies more, makes us feel better about ourselves and can lead to more happiness! So, if you have been nervous about starting exercise or getting back into it – don’t fret, just give it a go and see how you feel afterwards. You may find it changes your life for the better.