Fitness comprises a set of attributes possessed or achieved by people that affect their ability to perform routine tasks. Higher levels of fitness are associated with lower risk of chronic diseases and better management of existing health conditions. Better fitness also means better mobility and improved functionality of the body.
The mind-body connection
Exercise plays a significant role in the promotion of mental well-being. According to a study, even half an hour of moderate exercise can improve self-perception and body image. Exercise can prove to be an effective intervention for stimulating a better internal dialogue, generating positive thoughts, and boosting psychological well-being. This also means, that for exercise to have a positive impact on psychological health, the workouts do not even have to be extensive or strenuous.
By working on physical fitness, an individual can also reap the neurochemical benefits of exercise. Exercise stimulates endorphin production. Endorphins are peptides that boost the feeling of well-being and block the perception of pain. Stress management also becomes easier through fitness workouts. Exercise serves as a great stress reliever since it lowers the levels of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones of the body. Exercising the body also leads to a rise in the level of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These chemicals boost energy, increase alertness, and combat episodes.
Physical activity and fitness do affect brain health. Physical activity and enhanced cognitive functioning share a positive association. There also seems to be a higher prevalence of subjective cognitive decline in people with lower physical activity levels.
Types of exercise for mental health
Although fitness in general and all types of exercises are beneficial for mental health, some hold more benefits than others. These exercise types are more suitable for achieving specific mental health goals:
- Aerobic exercises have an influence on the physiologic reactivity to stress. These exercises increase the blood circulation to the brain and affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This leads to a boost in mood and reduction of anxiety and depression. People can gain these benefits from any aerobic exercise that they enjoy, like jogging, swimming, or cycling.
- Strength training has benefits that go beyond building muscles. According to studies, strength training leads to an increase in perceived strength and self-esteem. Strength training and confidence-building go hand in hand.
- Yoga provides multiple benefits to the body as well as the mind. It helps increase inner awareness, improve body perception, and develop mindfulness.
- Create a holistic lifestyle by building routine and consistency. Regular physical activity is important for physical and mental health.
- Overcome barriers to exercise with some time management strategies and motivation techniques.
- Sleep plays an important role in maintaining mental health and fitness. It affects exercise recovery, mental clarity, cognitive abilities, and emotional responses to stressors.
- Nutrition also has a significant impact on mental health. Boost cognitive function with a balanced diet and nutrients that support brain health. Non-stim pre-workout supplements can help boost energy levels, increase focus, and maximise the benefits of workouts.
- This content is meant to educate, and does not, in any way replace a medical or psychological consultation.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.