People often consider ‘mind’ and ‘body’ as two separate things. However, when considering mental and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate. Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems, while similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of developing certain conditions.

How Physical Health Affects Mental Health 

Most people exercise for weight loss, increased fitness levels, and improved cardiovascular health, but studies show that regular exercise also provides some serious mental health benefits. Below, we are going to discuss some of these benefits and look at the link between physical activity and mental health.

Stress Relief

In today’s society, all of us have to deal with high levels of stress, whether it’s demanding jobs, the unpredictability of the economy, or trying to make the work-life balance work. Too much stress can have a number of negative effects on your body, with symptoms including headaches, chest pains, and muscle tension. One of the most common mental health benefits of exercise is stress relief. Physical activity reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and helps to relax your muscles and relieve tension in your body. Exercise keeps your mind busy and allows you to escape the worries of daily life. It also provides a great opportunity to make friends and build networks, or enjoy some solitude and take time to relax and unwind from any stresses.

Improved Mood

According to experts at The Mental Health Foundation “exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild or moderate depression – without any negative side effects.” Exercise is a powerful tool for fighting depression for a number of reasons. Firstly, physical activity releases endorphins, powerful chemicals which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Increased Confidence

Physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve self-image. As your body improves physically, and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. Your renewed sense of pride and self-confidence will help you succeed in other tasks, and the discipline of maintaining a regular exercise schedule, will help you achieve other important lifestyle goals.

Improved Concentration And Memory

Physical activity has been shown to immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels, which all affect focus and attention. Exercise has the potential to greatly improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. It can therefore be an effective treatment for conditions such as ADHD. According to Child Mind Institute “a recent study found that regular physical activity decreased the severity of ADHD symptoms and improved cognitive functioning in children.”

Ways To Incorporate Exercise Into Your Daily Life 

In order to see the benefits of exercise, it is recommended that you do around 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. Moderate exercise includes activities such as walking, whereas running would class as a form of vigorous exercise.

Here are some exercise suggestions that you may want to consider:

  • Attending a health centre where you can enjoy several different activities, such as gym workouts and swimming sessions.
  • Join a local hiking or running group so that you can get fit and socialise with like-minded people.
  • Choose to walk to work or the shops when possible – this will help you get fit and save you money on fuel!

Don’t forget that everyone has to start somewhere and beginning any kind of regular exercise is always a great start! Please remember that it’s always a good idea to seek medical advice before starting a new exercise programme. Your GP will assess your current fitness levels and may be able to suggest a suitable exercise plan for you.

Final Thought

It is important that we recognise the connection between our bodies and minds if we want to feel our best. Improvements in either your physical fitness or mental well being, will usually result in improvements in your overall health. Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever, boost your feel-good endorphins, and distract you from daily worries. Being active has been shown to reduce the symptoms of a number of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and ADHD. It is therefore important that you include regular exercise into your daily schedule, and take the time to look after your body and mind.