It is commonly known that exercise promotes a healthier body and an improved sense of well-being. It also increases confidence for people needing a newer self image while preventing the aggravation of physical illnesses for some. While nearly all of the research on exercise is mainly focused on demonstrating the positive effects on the physical body itself, there is a mountain of research that is seeking to prove that exercise is beneficial for mental health as well.
A recently conducted study proved that exercise could help treat depression for 60% of all the participants. This result reflects similar findings as the total number of participants who use medication for their treatment from depression.
However, you don’t have to suffer from mental illness to benefit from exercise. You can enhance your sense of well-being by simply walking on the treadmill or by combining yoga and meditation. In a way, exercise could be used as a potential system for preventing the development of psychological and emotional disorders.
There are three dimensions at which we could look at when examining the benefits of exercise in the mental wellness of a person. Among the less well known is the biological aspect.
One theory suggests that physical workout or exercise could stimulate a part of the brain to release endorphins. Activities that are more likely to trigger the release of endorphins are swimming, cross-country skiing, running, bicycling, aerobics and sports like soccer, football and basketball.
Endorphins are comparable to opiates in the way that they resemble morphine. Endorphins could work in two ways – as a pain reliever (which is produced in response to the stresses brought on by physical work or stress) and as an enhancer of well-being. However, there is no definitive data that conclusively supports this claim.
On the other hand, exercise is also found to trigger the release of the hormones norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. All these are known to help improve mood and is actually the main effect of certain antidepressants.
An increase in these hormones is best observed in a condition known as “runner’s high”. This feeling, during and after an intensive period of exercise, is directly linked to the increased level of the hormones. However, there is still no conclusive evidence proving that the observed improvements on mood could be extended for a longer period of time.
Another is the physiological aspect. Nearly all of the feelings we associate with mental wellness come from our personal evaluation of the way our body feels. Say for instance, if you perceive a stomach pain as a form of stress then you will feel stressed (and sometimes even depression) every time your stomach aches. Likewise, exercise could render feelings such as muscle relaxation and easier breathing which we associate with “feeling better”. While this correlation is yet to have a better scientific grounding, we still could not deny the fact that muscle tension and increased blood flow go together with physical fitness.
No one knows yet exactly how exercise affects mental health. But it’s common among patients to regard exercise as a good technique for elevating their moods. The scientific community is yet to understand how this happens though and for now, it remains a truth that people benefit from exercise for mental health.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Mental Health Providers Should Prescribe Exercise More Often For Depression, Anxiety (lockergnome.com)
Category: Healthy Mind