While mental illness is often more serious than a malady that can be treated with a quick jog, incorporating regular exercise in your routine can improve both physical health and mental health. The health benefits and effects of exercise on mental health have been studied for many years and the outcomes are fairly conclusive – adhering to an exercise program and regularly engaging in physical exercise does have mental health benefits.
What Mental Health Conditions Can Exercise Improve?
While not a silver bullet, physical exercise reduces anxiety, depression and negative mood by improving self-esteem and reducing cognitive decline. Social withdrawal and isolation are often mitigated by exercise as well. Furthermore, many mental health treatments can lead to weight gain and increased risk for metabolic disorders, but with regular exercise, these side effects can often be avoided, reversed, or mitigated. Some of the other physical and emotional benefits of exercise include improved sleep, increased interest in other activities, better endurance, stress relief, overall mood improvements, an increase in energy and stamina, increased mental alertness, and more. Combined with professionally managed mental health care, relatively small amounts of exercise (such as 30 minutes, three times a week) can provide to be an excellent adjunct to various treatment modalities. In addition to helping improve mental health, exercise also can reduce blood pressure, improve heart disease, and reduce the amount of health services people require.
Exercise for Mental Health
While the actual type of exercise is less important than getting into a regular exercise routine, there are some public guidelines on what can be beneficial. Most importantly, before beginning any new exercise regimen, you should speak with your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough. Some of the exercise routines that make sense for beginners include short, brisk walks or light jogs totaling 30 minutes for three days a week (one 30 minute walk can also be broken up into three ten minute walks). As more self-confidence is gained and the positive impact of physical exercise is realized, fitness programs can be expanded to include team sports, races, weight training, cycling, kayaking, and much more.
While exercise can undoubtedly help to reduce stress levels and improve quality of life, it is important to recognize that addressing anxiety and other mental health issues or mental illness can be improved by working with a mental health professional. At the Granato Group, our team of qualified mental health professionals can help you go beyond the benefits of exercise programs to improve your mental health.