Exercise & mental health: professional footballer reveals 5 major benefits
Profesional Footballer Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu tells Healthista five ways exercise can help to boost our mental health
We all know that exercise is essential for the body, but the benefits for your mental health are just as important.
In the UK, one in four people experience mental health problems every year, and according to some studies, almost half of adults in the U.S. will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.
However, one of the keys to treating these issues could be as simple as getting more exercise.
mental health benefits of exercise are scientifically and anecdotally proven
The numerous mental health benefits of exercise are scientifically and anecdotally proven. In some instances, exercise can be as helpful as medication and therapy.
When you start in a depressive mindset, it can be really hard to get yourself motivated, so it’s important to start small.
Some activity is better than none at all, and you can gradually build to a thorough exercise regime as you reap the benefits.
Here are five key ways getting your heart pumping can be beneficial for your mindset….
#1 An endorphin boost
Put those pills away – exercise can almost have a medicinal effect. It’s proven to boost the body’s production of endorphins as well as other ‘happy’ chemicals such as dopamine.
Endorphins can also cause feelings of euphoria. When you exercise there’s a chance that you will get a rush, called a ‘runner’s high’. These benefits can help to tackle low mood and low feelings.
Endorphins are a natural painkiller and are released from your brain and spinal cord.
Doctors will always encourage regular exercise for this reason, but some therapists even believe in trying to increase exercise before resorting to taking anti-depressant medication.
#2 Increased self-esteem
This is one of the knock-on effects of regular exercise.
Whether your goal is to shift a few pounds or to build muscle tone, or just to make sure you don’t feel out of breath going up the stairs, being in better shape can help you to feel better about yourself.
Low self-esteem is very closely linked with mental health, and most Americans are unhappy with their bodies.
The way you look isn’t the only factor, but it is a huge problem for many people. Our bodies aren’t going to change overnight, which is why it is so important to maintain a regular regime of exercise.
#3 Good quality sleep
Sleep and mental health are also closely linked. If you get a poor night’s sleep, it can make it harder to regulate your mood and we all know that after a bad night’s sleep we can become irritable.
Harvard Health Publishing claims that ‘a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience’.
This means that every night where we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we’re reducing our brain’s ability to cope with everyday challenges.
exercise can act as a way to reset your system
So, how does exercise help with getting a good night’s sleep? Not only does going for a run or spending an hour in the gym make us physically tired, it’s been proven to help us to regulate our circadian rhythms.
These are what help to give our days a pattern and get enough rest in the evening. Even if you’re badly out of routine, exercise can act as a way to reset your system.
Studies have shown that taking 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week can provide a 65 per cent improvement in your sleep quality. In turn, this makes you more mentally robust.
#4 Better social life
This is an often overlooked method of boosting your mental health – we all have social needs that can be fulfilled by exercise.
Lots of people dread spending hours staring at a wall while running on a treadmill or using an exercise bike, but that’s not the only way to reap the benefits of getting in shape. Instead, consider joining a running club or playing a team sport.
consider joining a running club or playing a team sport
There is a clear link between a poor social life and mental health problems. Adults without an active social life are much more likely to struggle with their mental health.
Spending time with others may feel like more of an abstract benefit of exercise, but there are plenty of opportunities to turn exercise into a social activity.
As well as being better for your brain, it’s a way to ensure that you are more likely to stick with your exercise regime.
#5 Reduced anxiety
The endorphin release that we’ve already discussed can help those who are suffering from anxiety.
The release of happy chemicals is hugely beneficial for anxious feelings, and there are other methods you can put into practice while you exercise to experience further benefits.
Mindful running is one of these techniques. It’s a method of distracting yourself from worries and focusing on the moment, rather than letting your mind drift to the sort of concerns that can trigger your anxious thoughts.