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The Positive Effects of Exercise on Your Mental Health

By George Livengood – Program Director, Canon House Do you remember moping around the house as a kid and mom saying, “Go outside and play!”? Mom was onto something.  There are numerous studies that indicate exercise is helpful in reducing depression.  There is no one identifiable reason as to why it works. So let’s look at a few possibilities. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.  Endorphins interact with receptors in your brain and reduce your perception of pain. They also trigger positive feelings in the body.  A prime example of the positive feelings that follow a workout would be the “runner’s high”. Fortunately, it doesn’t only occur after running.  You can attain that same euphoric feeling through a variety of workouts. The physical benefits of exercise are as follows:

  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It improves muscle tone and strength.
  • It strengthens and builds bones.
  • It strengthens the heart.
  • It reduces body fat.
  • It increases energy levels
  • It improves the quality of sleep.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it is clear that our bodies benefit from exercise.  Maintaining a healthy body goes a long way and it could be argued is vital for a healthy mind.   A note on the improved quality of sleep- Endorphins also act as sedatives and help with achieving a restful state.  Sleep restores the body and mind.  There are a multitude of studies that link sleep to healthy brain function. Another benefit of regular exercise is improved self-esteem.  Feeling good about how you look and the way you feel in your body, has a direct impact on self-esteem.  The ability to demonstrate self-efficacy through the mastery of exercise improves self-esteem. And like an exercise program, small, attainable victories add up and the rate of return increases. One last point that might seem the least important after all of this talk of endorphins, physical benefits, self-esteem and self-efficacy but I think might be the key to it all, exercise can be great fun!  There are so many different types of exercise. Find the one(s) you like and enjoy! Put all of this together and of course exercise is helpful in reducing depression. Go out and play! At Destinations, we take a holistic, whole body approach to healing that includes balanced meals, 8 hours of sleep nightly and various opportunities for exercise during the week such as:  yoga, dance movement, weight training, swimming, hiking, daily recreation and group outings.