Exercise has long been associated with mental wellbeing, positioning itself as a staple characteristic of a healthy lifestyle. Key research has supported this, demonstrating how physical activity can alter the biology of our brains for a more positive mindset and healthy body.
There are several ways that exercise influences our biology, with some differences being easier to spot than others. Recognizing these effects in your body can help to motivate you on your fitness journey, all the while boosting your mental health progress!
Boosts the immune system
For those with depression or anxiety, exercising regularly can assist in the reduction of physical symptoms, as well as help to regulate your body’s immune system.
A holistic approach to health helps one to observe how a weak immune system can compromise a person’s mental wellbeing, especially in regard to low energy, bouts of depression, and general apathy. Many factors can contribute to a poor immune system, including an unhealthy diet, a lack of exercise, increased stress, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
The immune system is fundamental in transferring messages around the body. If the immune system is in poor condition, these messages can become weak or muddled. As your body focuses all its energy on sending out the correct signals, tension forms in other parts of your body. As a result, stress signals are sent out to your brain, causing low moods, immune inflammation, and fatigue.
Engaging in light exercise throughout the week will help to counteract this increased level of stress in the body, and maintain a high functioning immune system.
Excessive bouts of internal inflammation are being increasingly suggested by neuroscientists as playing a large role in the development of anxiety and depression.
In order to induce a calm and healthy bodily state, exercising two to three times a week at a moderate level can encourage an anti-inflammatory healing response. Decreasing this level of inflammation can ease feelings of fatigue, reduce social withdrawal, and lessen intrusive anxious thoughts.
Reducing inflammation in the body can also help to release stress, improving the performance of the immune system. As mentioned earlier, this will have another positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing.
Promotes a healthy sleeping schedule
Having a regular and stable sleeping schedule is essential for optimizing your mental health. Sleep directly influences how your brain processes both your passing and deeper emotions, ensuring a more logical and rational mental response to triggering scenarios.
Getting sufficient sleep is also integral to developing your cognitive functions, aiding your memory. A lack of sleep will not only disrupt these important processes but will also make you more susceptible to stress. As your brain is not getting enough time to rest, it may lack its usual capacity to handle pressure, resulting in symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Exercising is a proven way to strengthen your sleeping habits and increase how tired your body feels at the end of the day. For those who suffer from insomnia, engaging in more frequent physical activity can help facilitate a more restful night’s sleep. In fact, recent studies have shown that the effects of aerobic exercise on sleep are similar to those of sleeping medications.
Make sure to exercise at least 1–2 hours before you plan on going to sleep to allow your body to relax from increased endorphins and heart rate.
Delay brain ageing
Additionally, frequent exercise can help to delay brain ageing and the unwanted, debilitating effects that this can have on our bodies.
Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes are a few progressive diseases that can occur as the brain ages. An ageing brain is also more susceptible to mental health issues, such as age-associated anxiety.
Age-associated anxiety often occurs when people realize they are mentally not as sharp as they once were. This is most commonly recognized through having issues with memory and other impaired cognitive functions.
Exercise can help to delay brain ageing by reducing the progressive loss of brain volume. This reduces the risk of dementia and other cognitive diseases, all the while aiding memory and mental confidence.
Exercise is a distinguished, natural way of improving your mental health. Whilst it may not cure all types of anxiety or depression, it will aid positive progress and reduce the intensity of symptoms. Remember that if you’re experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms, seeking support can be immensely helpful to manage them. Visit Prairie Health to schedule a free online consultation with a mental health specialist and receive a personalized, genetic-informed treatment plan in just a few days.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.