Exercise and Mental Health: Are There Connections?

1 min read

We all know that exercise promotes a healthier body and a better sense of well-being. It boosts confidence for people who need a newer self-image while it prevents the aggravation of physical illnesses for some. While nearly all of the research on exercise is focused on demonstrating positive effects on the physical body, there is a growing mass of research that seeks to prove that exercise is good for mental health as well.
A study conducted by the researchers from Duke University along with other similar studies proved that exercise could help treat depression for 60% of all the participants. This result is similar to the total number of participants who are using medications for their treatment of depression.

However, you don’t have to be a sufferer of a mental illness before you benefit from exercise. You can boost your sense of well-being while walking on the treadmill or by combining yoga and meditation. In a way, exercise could be used as a potential medium for preventing the development of psychological and emotional conditions.

One theory suggests that a physical workout or exercise could stimulate a part of the brain to release endorphins. Activities that are more likely to trigger the release of endorphins are swimming, cross-country skiing, running, bicycling, aerobics, and sports like soccer, football, and basketball.

Endorphins are comparable to opiates in a way that they resemble morphine. Endorphins could work in two ways- as a pain reliever (which is produced in response to the stresses brought about by physical work or stress) and as an enhancer of well-being. There are, however, no definite data that could support this claim.

An increase in these hormones could be best observed in a condition known as “runner’s high”. This feeling after an acute exercise is directly linked to the increased number of the said hormones. However, there are still no conclusive studies proving that improvements in mood could be facilitated for a longer period of time.

No one knows yet how exactly exercise affects mental health. But it is common among patients to view exercise as a good medium to elevate their moods. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Charity Mind, nearly two-thirds of all people who said that they use exercise to relieve symptoms of stress and depression believe that exercise actually works for them. The scientific community is yet to understand how this happens though and for now, it remains a truth that people benefit from exercise for mental health.

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