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Cultivating Mental Health: The Benefits of Exercise to Your Mental Health

Who doesn’t want to live their best life? To be able to present themselves authentically to the world as happy, secure, and confident. Unfortunately, many of us believe that becoming the best version of ourselves relies primarily on our physical appearance, and the value others place on it. However, we know that how we look on the outside does not necessarily reflect how we feel on the inside. And as the saying goes, “It’s what on the inside that counts.” 😉

We must find our own value. And, what do we do with things we value? We take care of it!

There’s no question that working to maintain a healthy body condition is important to physical health, but to realize our potential for happiness and emotional well-being, we must also focus effort on our mental health. Lucky for us, there is one self-care practice that you can plant into your daily routine that helps both your physical and mental health – EXERCISE! And so, our series, “Cultivating Mental Health” continues with an examination into the benefits of exercise to our mental health.

Benefits of Exercise to Mental Health

Research has shown that regular exercise can have a significant impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD, and also aide in treating PTSD. It can also help to relieve stress, improve cognition and memory, regulate sleep patterns, and boost your overall mood. Multiple studies have even discovered that exercise can be as effective as psychotherapy and antidepressant medication in treating mild to moderate depression – with immediate results and without any of the pesky side effects common with medication. What’s more, one study, performed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that running for 15 minutes or walking for an hour every day can reduce the risk of major depression by 26%.

Benefits of exercise to mental health include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Better sleep
  • Relief of tension, stress, and anxiety
  • Improved thinking, memory, and concentration
  • Increased energy and motivation
  • Improved self-esteem
  • And, maybe most importantly, exercise promotes brain function, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being.

How to Improve Mental Health Through Exercise

Finding the time and inclination to exercise can be difficult for some, so you may be happy to know that it is not necessary to become a fitness junkie to reap the mental health benefits of exercise. The key is to simply plant some regular exercise habits into your daily life. This can be as simple as walking the dog, going for a bike ride with friends, a cool summer swim, or any other activity that you enjoy - just get your body moving with purpose for 30+ minutes a day, 5+ days a week.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Check with your primary care doctor about any physical limitations you may need to be mindful of prior to starting an exercise routine.
  • Start small, set achievable goals, and reward yourself along the way.
  • Schedule activity for the time of day when you typically feel most energized – morning, afternoon, or evening.
  • Select activities that you enjoy.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Get creative with your activity ideas and mix it up – don’t get stuck in a boring routine that you can’t muster enthusiasm for.
  • Make exercise fun and enjoyable by getting friends or family to join in.
  • And, finally, to get the most mental health benefits out of your exercise routine, make sure to clear your mind of intrusive thoughts or worries and focus solely on the activity and how it makes you feel. Meditate on the sensations it creates within your body and mind.

So, go on - get moving, have some fun, and improve your mental and physical health! 


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Cultivating Mental Health: Blog Series Introduction

Cultivating Mental Health: How to Improve Your Mental Health Through Nutrition

Cultivating Mental Health: The Importance of Sleep to Your Mental Health

Cultivating Mental Health: The Importance of Social Relationships

Cultivating Mental Health: Protecting Your Mental Health on Social Media

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