The last past couple of years we have all been informed of the impact of COVID-19 on our mental health. And while we’re now beginning to ease restrictions on social distancing, job losses, world events, social isolation and uncertainty over the future, is still impacting many as we face the after effects of this devastating pandemic.

Therefore, trying to ensure we that we stay resilient, hopeful and positive is as important as ever and to do so naturally and healthily is just as important for many people.

Aerobic exercises, such as jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression and even though the benefits of exercise on mood have generally been well-known, the importance of exercise are often not adequately understood or appreciated, which, often results in it as being an neglected strategy for improving mental health.

So lets have a look at how exercising improves our mental health with perhaps starting off with some of the more well-known benefits, but as you may soon learn, the secondary benefits of exercises can have a significant impact without us being unaware of it.

  • Physical activity may help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. This positive feeling of the release of neurotransmitters after exercise is so common that they have given it a name, it’s often referred to as ‘the runner’s high’.
  • Exercising has been found to increase the concentration of norepinephrine; a chemical thought to play a major role in controlling the action of other neurotransmitters that play a direct role in managing stress response.
  • Reseach has shown that higher inflammatory markers in the blood is more likely to develop depression in the future. Microglia are the immune cells of the brain that help prevent inflammation. Exercise was shown to make the microglia more energy efficient and capable of counteracting neuroinflammatory changes that impair brain functioning.
  • Exercising can increase the carbon-dioxide levels in your body. High carbon dioxide levels may triggers a panic attack: increased heart and respiratory rates, dry mouth and dizziness. People with high anxiety sensitivity are more likely to panic in response to higher carbon dioxide levels. However one study found that people with high anxiety sensitivity who also reported high activity levels were less likely to panic than subjects who exercised infrequently.
  • Mental stress and fear produces many of the same physical reactions — heavy perspiration, increased heart rate and breathingas physical exercise. Exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems — all of which are involved in the stress response — to communicate much more closely than usual: The cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other. The less exercise we get, the less efficient our bodies are in responding to stress.
  • Exercise may boost someone with low mood by helping them to complete a meaningful activity and thereby provide a sense of accomplishment.
  • Research shows that while exercise initially spikes the stress response in the body, people experience lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine after bouts of physical activity.
  • Exercise may increase fatigue which may help promote good sleep patterns, which is known to have protective effects on the brain.
  • Exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

So how much exercise should I be doing and what type of exercise is best for my mental well being? Well, the jury is still out, however, there is the general consensus that 150 minutes per week is the ideal amount.

As part of your health and well-being, go out and engage in some physical activity, whether it be going to the gym, the beach or just a walk around the street. Get out there and get the body moving. Not just for your physical health but your mental health as well. 

And if you are struggling to get started or exercise isnt quite enough to lift your mood, contact us at Prosper and let us help you to get moving.

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