What is the Relationship Between Exercise Fitness and Mental Health? (2024)

Exercise has been linked to a number of mental health benefits, including mood enhancement. It can improve sleep, boost memory and help you feel more positive about life in general.

It can also be a helpful addition to traditional mental health treatment. However, many people with mental health disorders find it hard to stay motivated to exercise.

1. Depression

Depression is a common mental health condition that can cause significant distress. It can affect all aspects of a person's life and impact their social, professional, and family relationships.

Exercise may help with depression by increasing levels of endorphins and neurotransmitters. It may also change how the brain responds to stress.

There is an increasing body of research that supports the link between exercise and mental health. Despite methodological challenges, such as small sample sizes and self-reporting, the benefits of exercise have been shown to be substantial and long lasting.

2. Anxiety

There's a lot of evidence that regular exercise can reduce anxiety. It's not just the rush of endorphins that makes you feel better — it also helps to control your mood, regulate your brain chemicals and build a resilience to stress.

It's important to note that there is no best way to exercise for anxiety, as everyone responds differently to different types of activities. What's important is that you start a routine that fits your schedule and allows you to make progress towards your goals.

Many people who suffer from anxiety disorders find it challenging to get enough physical activity on a regular basis. This can lead to feelings of insecurity and frustration, which is why it's so important to stick with your workout schedule.

3. Stress

Exercise has been shown to be a valuable tool for managing stress, boosting your mood and improving your sleep. It also helps your body regulate hormones that are a common cause of chronic stress.

The stress response system, which releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in small bursts, can become out of balance when a person is under constant pressure. These hormonal fluctuations can lead to numerous health issues, including mental disorders.

But regular physical activity can help get your stress response system back in balance, says Abbie Smith-Ryan, PhD. She explains that exercising can train you to tolerate discomfort, something people with anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often have trouble with.

4. Depression and anxiety

Exercise can help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Research shows that regular exercise reduces the symptoms of both mental health conditions for a number of hours afterward and can be just as effective as medication for some people.

Generally, a combination of aerobic and strength-training exercises is best. Start with at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week, such as walking or running for 30 minutes each day.

Physical activity can also ease anxiety by helping the brain process stress better. For instance, mindfulness meditation, which involves training your mind to slow down racing thoughts and relax by focusing on your breathing, has been found to be particularly helpful.

5. Sleep

If you're a person who has struggled to fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night, exercise can be a helpful tool. It can help you sleep longer, more soundly and may reduce your stress and anxiety levels.

You don't need a long, strenuous workout to see these benefits. Even small amounts of routine physical activity, such as brisk walking, biking or swimming, can improve your sleeping habits.

Regular exercise improves cardiorespiratory fitness, or your body's ability to use oxygen during activity. It also boosts your body's ability to go into deep, slow-wave sleep – the most restorative phases of the sleep cycle.

What is the Relationship Between Exercise Fitness and Mental Health? (2024)
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