Optimal physical exercise improves mental health

Optimal physical exercise improves mental health

Civilization has transformed significantly over the last four centuries. The industrial revolution progressively reduced the demand for physical work. As a result, the human body genetically tuned for strenuous physical work did not require working hard any more, while the mind found itself taxed with increasing complexity of work and study.

Perhaps the changes in our lifestyle have something to do with the increasing mental health issues we are facing today. Although we cannot reduce the mental work that we are required to do daily, we can give enough exercises to our bodies to bring them in alignment with the amount of physical activity they were meant to do.

Several studies have corroborated the effectiveness of exercise in boosting mental health. Exercise acts in various ways to improve mental health. A study conducted at the University of Sao Paulo by Peluso and Andrade (2005) sheds light on various aspects of the relationship between exercise and mental health. This study was a combination of 123 studies, aimed at understanding the relationship between exercise and mental health.

The study says that an average adult should do physical exercises for about 30 minutes a day, if possible, every day of the week. Just as physical exercise prevents and cures various physiological diseases; it can also prevent and cure mental disorders, namely anxiety and depression.

The study claims that both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can benefit individuals with mild psychiatric ailments. It lists the following benefits that psychiatric patients can gain through physical exercises:

1) Distraction: Any type of physical exertion helps move mental processes away from the painful stimuli.

2) Self-efficacy: A person tends to take up the challenge of performing physical exercises and also fulfils it.

3) Social interaction: Physical exercise makes a person outgoing and he or she develops social relationships, which, in turn, boost mental health.

Apart from the above psychological effects of exercise, certain physiological effects – those related to body and brain chemistry – are also widely seen. For instance, exercising the body is connected to an increase in monoamine transmission. Moreover, endogenous opioids are released due to increased physical activity during exercise.

In simple words, physical exercise releases natural chemicals, which are transmitted within the body and mind. These chemicals work much in the same manner as the medication used for various mental health disorders. This means that a regular exercise is a natural treatment for mental health.

Avoid over-exercising

However, there are certain precautions to be taken when committing to physical exercise. Although over-exercising has not been proven to damage mental health and most people who exercise regularly demonstrate good mental health, there is a little doubt that excessive exercise exposes individuals to the risk of physical injury.

Today’s teens are obsessed with the idea of looking slim or muscular, and this is more common in individuals who exercise regularly. This constant worry about one’s physique can result in lowered self- esteem and eating disorders. A number of people also use steroids to enhance performance during workouts, which can result in mania, psychosis and depression. Excessive indulgence in physical exercises to look better than others can also lead to jealousy and pave the way to criminal acts.

Reports indicate that intense exercise can have an adverse impact on one’s mood, while moderate exercise helps enhance the mood. The study by Peluso and Andrade indicates that although moderate physical exercise does improve mood, intense exercise may do the opposite. As a result, practitioners seeking to improve mood through exercise must plan and monitor their physical activities to obtain optimal benefits pertaining to mental health.

Sovereign Mental Health Services provides the highest quality care in mental health, dual diagnosis and addiction treatment programs. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental illness or a drug addiction, please call Sovereign Health today (866) 954-0529.

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