Exercise and Mental Health

Exercise has many benefits, not only for your physical health but also for your mental health. Exactly how exercise might boost mood isn't yet well understood, however research has suggested that it changes levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins (substances that can block pain and may also enhance feelings of wellbeing). We also know that exercise pumps blood to the brain, which may enhance clarity. Additionally, exercise increases connections between nerve cells in the brain, which might improve memory and help protect the brain against injury and disease.

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A growing amount of scientific evidence indicates that engaging in regular exercise can have a positive impact on mood, self esteem, productivity, concentration and management of anxiety and depression symptoms. Research is also starting to demonstrate that creativity, self and emotional awareness and other positive outcomes can heighten during movement. Exercise may also help you to sleep better, and provide a distraction from negative thoughts and a chance to have new experiences. It is therefore not surprising to see psychologists, psychiatrists, exercise physiologists and other allied health practitioners embracing exercise as part of a treatment plan for those with mental health challenges, as well as using it as a preventative measure for the general population.

It is common to struggle finding motivation, or staying motivated, for exercise. It can be helpful to think about ways to make exercise part of your lifestyle and daily routine – choose something you enjoy, and ask your friends or family to help motivate you. Exercising in a group is able to assist in reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can be commonly experienced by those living in rural and remote communities. If you own a dog, take them for walks in your local area. And of course, don’t forget to combine your exercise routine with a healthy diet to boost your energy for exercise.

** The Australian Government guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week. You can make up 30 minutes over the day by combining shorter 10–15 minute sessions ** 

Written by Alice Williams, Registered Psychologist working with Active Farmer via Dokotela

To hear more about Alice and her services click here.

Ginny Stevens