Does Exercise Help with Mental Health? – 3 Key Benefits

Relaxed woman balancing on a yoga board at the beach

Despite the fact that, as a race, we have seemingly advanced such a huge amount over the decades, there still appears to be a taboo associated with mental health, and that simply has to stop.

Mental health disorders can affect us all, at any time, for a whole variety of different reasons yet there are numerous things we can do to treat and prevent them.

It is believed that 1 in 4 people are currently affected by a mental health disorder, though in truth, experts are worried that that number is much higher, and that some people are suffering in silence and hiding their issues for fear of judgement or ridicule.

As far as treatment and prevention goes, doctors, therapists, and everyday individuals alike all agree on the fact that exercise provides numerous benefits when it comes to our mental health, which is what we’re going to be looking at today.

Here are a few key mental health benefits associated with exercise.

Exercises reduces stress

Woman doing yoga an the beach

Stress is sometimes known as the ‘silent killer’ due to the fact it can lead to numerous health issues such as hypertension, which could potentially be fatal.

Stress is all around us, and it can be difficult to avoid it on certain days, yet some people find themselves dealing with more stress than others.

Stress in itself is bad enough, yet it can also lead to further mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. This is where exercise proves to be so beneficial.

Exercise is a very effective stress buster as it helps to promote the production of endorphins and neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, which help us to relax and unwind. Furthermore, providing you don’t exercise too intensely, for too long, it can actually buffer the production of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.

Finally, exercise boosts the production of a neurotransmitter known as norepinephrine, which is a chemical that helps to moderate the way in which the brain responds to stress.

Exercise promotes sleep

Koala sleeping on a branch

When it comes to sleep and mental health, the entire process is often a vicious circle as a lack of sleep can lead to mental health issues, yet mental health issues can cause a lack of sleep due to insomnia.

When we’re lacking sleep, we produce more cortisol which leaves us feeling stressed, plus we feel irritable and our hormones are out of sync and become unbalanced.

When you exercise regularly however, your chances of getting a good night’s sleep improve exponentially.

Exercise is physically demanding so as you expend more energy you’ll feel more tired to begin with, plus there’s the fact that it promotes the production of melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for us feeling tired and sleepy, especially once it gets dark.

The better your sleep pattern is, the more your mental health will likely improve, as long as you aren’t sleeping too much.

Improve your mood

Happy child running through a sprinkler

Finally, when it comes to exercise and mental health, exercise is great for lifting your mood.

After you exercise, you’ll get a natural endorphin “high” as exercise promotes the production of endorphins. Endorphins are known as ‘happy chemicals’ as they help to make you feel happy, confident, and content with life in general.

These endorphins not only help you to feel happier, they can also help to alleviate the symptoms associated with mental health issues such as chronic stress and even depression.

Exercise is considered a natural anti-depressant, with the added bonus of being very good for you and with no harmful side effects like those associated with prescription drugs.