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Using Exercise to Improve Your Mental Health

Every day at Canberra Spine Centre we see the results of stress on people’s general health.

Mental and emotional stresses take a toll on the body, just as the physical ones do. Higher stress levels are even more noticeable during this time, with so many stressful changes to our routines and no end in sight.

Keeping healthy during this time is vitally important. Good physical health tends to contribute to good mental health.

Despite mental health being an extremely important component of our health, it is often overlooked. Poor mental health can massively impact our ability to do the things we want and need to do.

It may also greatly contribute to heightened sensation of pain. In this article we’ll explain the benefits of consistent exercise on our mental health.

How Does Exercise Improve my Mental Health?

Exercise can be used in many ways to assist in improving and maintaining mental health. It can reduce anxiety, improve energy levels, and sleep.

Moving Meditation

Exercise can help in reducing anxiety levels in several ways. Firstly, it can allow you to have time to yourself. When you’re exercising you can solely focus on the task in front of you.

For example, putting one foot in front of the other, especially if you’re walking on rough ground in nature. This is a similar concept to meditation as it stops your mind from wondering and thinking about other day to day stresses.

Routine helps

Having a consistent exercise regime helps to create a daily routine. By scheduling in your exercise most days you are able to more effectively manage the rest of your day, which in turn can assist with improving your sleeping patterns.

Building resilience

When you are exercising you are not only challenging yourself physically by overcoming physical stress, but also challenging your mental toughness.

Getting through challenging bouts of exercise will build your mental toughness and ability to overcome adverse situations which can then be utilized in your day to day life.

What Happens in the Brain with Exercise?

A single bout of physical activity can create immediate effects in the brain that can last for many hours afterward.

These effects are primarily related to your mood and attention and are related to the levels of these three hormones known as Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin.

These hormones have effects related to feelings of reward and wellbeing, attention, motivation and the ability to relax and sleep.

The physiological changes and hormones associated with exercise are responsible for that feeling of accomplishment and joy you feel following a bout of exercise.

Serotonin, for example, is responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness. Healthy levels of serotonin help reduce depression and anxiety, helping us maintain a positive mood.

Attention is a big factor in some mental health conditions such as ADHD.

As mentioned earlier, following a bout of exercise our brain releases Dopamine and Norepinephrine which both assist with our ability to pay attention to the things we need to do at the time, which in turn can help with managing time and reducing stress.

Tips for the Best Way to Exercise for Mental Health

Here are some helpful guidelines for exercising to improve mental health:

  • Do at least 150 minutes of accumulated moderate intensity exercise per week. This can easily be broken up into smaller chunks and doesn’t have to be all at once. For example – 30 minutes, five days per week.
  • What type of exercise? Well this is entirely up to you! Find an activity you enjoy, weather that is walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing or team sports. The more fun you can have with physical activity the greater benefit you will receive.
  • Incorporating activities that are social is a good idea as it allows you to build social relationships while also improving your physical and mental health at the same time. This can include things such as exercising with a friend, doing a group exercise class or playing a team sport.

Exercise can have both immediate and long-term benefits for mental health through hormone release in the brain, stress and anxiety management and improved sleep.

To get the greatest mental health benefits, find something enjoyable and fun to do by yourself or within a social setting and try to accumulate 150 minutes of it per week.

If you have further questions or concerns regarding exercise and mental health, please call us on (02) 6257 9400.

If you would like some more information about other aspects of your health and how they can be improved, please check out the other articles on our facebook page or go to our website:

Also, make sure you read the other interesting articles we post on mental helath this month.