Many of us have good days and bad days. But what happens when our worry, fear, and sadness take over? It can be hard to exercise and find the energy to take care of ourselves during those times. For some those times are situational and fleeting however for others the situation leads to prolonged feelings of sadness or worry. Exercise can improve our mental health. Exercise can improve mental health by helping our bodies release endorphins. In an article by Jennifer C. Panning titled “Mental Health Benefits of Exercise” she points out that endorphins are our bodies natural way to help us create feelings of happiness. In addition to releasing endorphins exercise helps us focus on caring for ourselves.
When we take time to care for ourselves we are better able to realize our own value. As we realize our own value our self-esteem and confidence go up. As these rise so do our feelings of well being.
According to Daniel M Landers, “We now have evidence to support the claim that exercise is related to positive mental health as indicated by relief in symptoms of depression and anxiety”. This is important because the CDC states 1 in 5 Americans suffer from these illnesses. Landers highlighted studies which show both conditions are helped by exercise (without medication) with similar effectiveness to just using medication.
For many the decision to take medication is a tough one. There are side effects such as weight gain, loss of libido, and feeling “flat” which are compounded by worries about how long one will have to take the prescribed pill, not to mention the financial cost. Personally, I am not against medication and I know it can be effective and helpful, but my opinion is that a combination of treatment is most effective.
By focusing on healthy lifestyle choices like adding exercise into your daily routine you make positive steps to feel better, learn new and healthy ways of coping, and take charge of your life conciously.
*It should be noted that exercise is not a cure all and professional help and advice should be sought before beginning any exercise program and for your mental health concerns.
Landers, D. M.(1997). The influence of exercise on mental health. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Diegest. 2, 12. http://www.fitness.gov/mentalhealth.htm
Panning, J. C.(2000). Mental health benefits of exercise. Mental Health Journal. http://www.findcounseling.com/journal/health-fitness/
Rose, T. (2007). Depression and Weight Gain.