The benefits of exercise on your mental health

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Most of us already know that exercise is great for your physical health, but you might not know it’s also great for your mental health. Exercise and working out can boost your mood, improve your sleep, and can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

When you exercise you release chemicals in your body like endorphins and serotonin that help improve your mood. Regular exercise can reduce stress and symptoms associated with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Exercise has also been shown to help with mental health recovery.

A recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects. Running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26 per cent. In addition to relieving symptoms of depression, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.

When you work out all kinds of changes take place in your brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise is also great as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

In addition to helping with your mental health, exercise can even make you smarter! When you exercise, blood gets pumped to your brain, which can actually help you to think more clearly. It increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and increases the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease.

So how much exercise do you need to start seeing some of these benefits to your mental health? For adults, Australian guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week. But remember, you don’t have to do this all in-one hit. You can make up 30 minutes over the day by combining shorter 10-to-15-minute sessions.

If the cost associated with joining a gym is holding you back check out your local community centres, which often have affordable exercise groups. There are also loads of free outdoor gym equipment stations in local parks. Some private health insurance companies also offer rebates for gym membership as part of a mental health plan – so check out your policy or ask your health insurance provider, if you’ve got one.

Taking control of your schedule and planning time to train or do other vigorous exercise can, in and of itself, provide a sense of accomplishment. So much of our time these days, both in our work and our social lives, revolves around technology. There is something therapeutic in itself about getting away from the screens and engaging in exercise that can provide you with some head space and give you new perspectives.

Creating healthy habits around exercise takes time. Whatever your goal is, the best results usually mean incremental progress, which can also help prevent injury.

If you are thinking about starting but keep waiting for the right time – the best time to start is now. Motivation usually picks up once you start training – so get out there and start reaping both the physical and mental benefits that come with exercise!

TO get you started or keep you going try these great protein supplements to support your workout routine: Dymatize – ISO 100, Optimum Nutrition – Gold Standard 100% Whey, BSN – Syntha 6 5lb & Amino X Combo and GHOST – WHEY.

*if you are concerned about your mental health, always talk to your doctor. For more information about depression and to get help visit beyondblue.org.au

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