Learn how exercise really benefits your mental health
I’ve recently had a few physical and mental setbacks which have rendered me lethargic, fatigued, feeling fat, and unhappy. I’m a great believer that exercise benefits mental health, hence my digging out this old post, seeking inspiration and motivation.
I’d previously come across a great blog called When Women Inspire. It’s written by Christy Birmingham, a Canadian writer, blogger and author. As I write about all things mental health, I found one of Christy’s posts particularly interesting. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Christy’s allowed me to re-blog her post How exercise benefits mental health.
Furthermore, many studies support the growing literature suggesting that exercise has beneficial effects across several physical and mental health outcomes. Research shows that participants engaging in regular physical activity display more desirable health outcomes across a variety of physical conditions. Similarly, participants in randomized clinical trials of physical-activity interventions show better health outcomes. Moreover, they experience better general and health-related quality of life, better functional capacity and better mood states.
The physical benefits of exercise are well known, but what effect can it have on your mind and mental health? Let’s find out.
Exercise and changes in mood
According to Lane and Lovejoy, the general trend in research findings indicates that exercise has a mood enhancing effect. This is typified by increased vigor and reduced anger, confusion, depression, fatigue, and tension. As I expected, Lane and Lovejoy’s own study concluded that exercise does bring about improved mood.
Another study by Brand et al said “Studies at the macro level (such as longer-term interventions) showed that physical activity impacts positively on cognitive-emotional processes of patients with mental disorders. However, research focusing on the immediate impact of acute bouts of exercise (micro level) are missing.
The aim of Brand et al’s study was therefore to investigate whether and to what extent single bouts of moderately intense exercise can influence psychological functioning in inpatients with mental disorders.
The study showed how psychological states improved from pre- to post-session. Improvements were observed for mood, social interactions, attention, and physical strengths. Likewise, rumination and tiredness decreased. Mood, rumination, and tiredness further improved, when patients completed the questionnaires the second time in the same week.
The study concluded “at micro level, single bouts of exercise impacted positively on
- cognitive-emotional processes such as mood, rumination, attention and social interactions
- and physiological states of tiredness and physical strengths
among inpatients with mental disorders. In addition, further improvements were observed, if patients participated in physical activities a second time.”
So, there we have it. Even one bout of exercise is helpful! Whoo hoo!
Speaking from experience
I know from both personal and professional experience that exercise is beneficial for mental health. At the Day Hospital I worked in, we had weekly swimming sessions at our local pool. We also had our own gym with two full-time fitness instructors, which was a big hit with patients. And staff often joined patients for workouts.
One year, four of us (two staff and two patients) exercised, trained for and completed a 5k charity run for cancer. We each romped home in less than 40 minutes — you can imagine just how happy that made us all feel.
We always carried out pre- and post- physical activity assessments and noted vast improvements in the same areas as the studies above. The results were recorded and documented in both the patients’ notes and in a separate interventions folder. We were able to use these results to measure the success of the various interventions provided by the Day Hospital.
Now, I’m not a lady that wants a rock hard body worthy of those fitness competitions. But more recently, and as I’ve gotten older, I feel I’ve let myself go and my bingo wings are beginning to flap a
little lot more than I’d wish. And let’s not mention the pumpkinesque physique I’ve mysteriously developed. Mind you, it hasn’t bothered me that much that I’ve done any exercising. But, and bear with me here, I really am going to start!
I’ve been sadly lacking energy and motivation lately, but seriously, now it’s time to take a bit of my own advice. Action happens first and motivation follows! I’m going to have hubby take some before pics, urgh! That ought to work 😉 and the exercise will follow.
What I’ll need to exercise at home
Now you might think that toning my arms á la Jade Pinkett-Smith or Heidi Klum requires a gym full of equipment. But all I’ll really need to sculpt some seriously taut and toned limbs is a pair of dumbbells. Mind you, 2 x 2 litre cartons of milk will also work, and 15-20 minutes.
I’ve read somewhere that I should crank up the under arm toning exercises 2-4 times a week for added strength and definition in my biceps and triceps. Don’t laugh…………… I’m determined.
I’ll keep you posted and hopefully get some after pics, showing off my newly toned arms. However, rest assured, you’ll not be seeing any of my slimmed down Rubenesque body snaps any time soon.
Over to you
Do you or have you found that exercise helps improve your mood? What type of exercises do you do and is that a lone or a group activity? I’d love to hear what works best for you, and it would be great if you shared any tips. I look forward to your comments, questions or constructive criticism about any of my posts, and my blog in general.