Home » Can Exercise Help Treat Mental Health Conditions?

In recent years there has been an increasing amount of research that points to the positive effects that exercising can have on physical health. Yet, it also appears that these benefits can also help mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Exercise & Mental Health:

Some studies have suggested that exercising for two and half hours a week may help with some mental health conditions. Researchers found that exercising outdoors is more beneficial whether participating in team or individual activities. Yet, more time spent exercising does not create increased benefits.

They found that a moderate amount of physical exercise is the best action to take for most people. Inversely, higher rates of depression were reported from people who were not exercising to these activity standards.

Similar research seems to indicate that the kinds of exercises that people engage in can actually influence their mental health in different ways. Data indicates that group exercises are more successful at keeping people engaged in physical activity. But, activities that were individually based were also successful at reducing stress and anxiety levels. The lowest levels of depression and anxiety measurements were among individuals participating in indoor team activities.

For people with severe depression (MDD), exercising by itself is not enough. However, for less severe cases of depression, regular physical activity is effective and beneficial to a person’s overall mental health. Exercise is not a replacement for professional behavioral health therapy. But, it is a beneficial activity that bolsters one’s mental health.

An increased understanding of exercise’s influence on mental health is good news. In the United States, a sizable number of individuals report having issues with feelings of depression. If these feelings linger for multiple weeks, they can have a negative impact on a person’s life. About 6.7 percent of the nation’s population is diagnosed as having clinical depression.

Therapies like TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and antidepressant medications are effective methods for treating depression. But, additional treatment options are always welcomed.

Beyond the positive impact that exercise has on mental health, there additional benefits for a person’s physical health. Some of these benefits include decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, insomnia and diabetes. Overall, a regular exercise program makes it easier for people to experience a sense of mindfulness and lower general stress levels.

Some Barriers to Exercising:

Due to the nature of diseases like depression, it can be a challenge for people with the condition to engage in physical activity. The physical effects of depression often make a person feel more lethargic and tired. Symptoms like disrupted sleep patterns, suppressed appetite, increased body aches can all contribute to a person not being motivated to exercise.

In order to overcome this pattern, people should start with small changes and then gradually expand. For example, simply engaging in five minutes of a physical activity that they enjoy is a good start. Once this is sustainable, people should increase physical activity to eight or ten minutes. Just so it is a gradual increase that they can successfully maintain. Small successes often lead to bigger successes.

However, individuals need to be patient when starting an exercise routine. Placing additional pressure on oneself will not help the overall situation. For example, anxiety issues may distract people from wanting to jog outside and be seen in public.

The goal here is to have the physical activity feel natural. When the activity is something people enjoy doing, it is easier to experience positive effects. A leisure stroll through a park or time spent gardening is just fine.

How Exercise Helps Mental Health:

Physical exercise can alleviate some of the symptoms of depression, PTSD and anxiety. Specifically, obtaining regular physical activity helps one’s mental health for the following reasons:

  • Escape from thoughts: During moderate or vigorous physical activity, the cycle of negative thoughts may quiet down in a person’s mind.
  • Releasing endorphins: Physical activity will often trigger the body to release brain chemicals that promote a sense of well-being.
  • Developing coping strategies: Physical exercise can help people manage their depression or anxiety. At the same time, when they achieve personal fitness goals people develop increased self-confidence.
  • Social interactions: Sometimes exercise activities grant people the opportunity to socialize with other people. Even a casual stroll and greeting people as you walk by can have a positive impact on a person’s mood.

Who We Are:

Physical activity is not a replacement for professional therapy, but it is a great supplement to behavioral health treatments. For more information about exercise routines that can help to reduce stress and encourage a positive mental health, contact the experienced staff at Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center.

They are an independently owned behavioral health practice in Central Ohio. For more information about their behavioral health services and therapy options, email them or call at (614) 580-6917.

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Contributor: ABCS RCM