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Using Exercise to Improve Mental Health

Dec 7, 2010

Exercise has proven highly effective in efforts to improve mental health. If you want to be in a better mood and reduce your stress, exercise! For best results, choose fitness activities that get your heart rate up. If you exercise at least several times per week, every week, you will see greater results.

Research Findings on Exercise and Mental Health

Studies show that a consistent commitment to exercise decreases anxiety, reduces depression, increases self-esteem and improves restful sleep. While exercise cannot be treated as a panacea for a serious mental health condition, it is a helpful adjunct to other mental health treatments. For milder mental health struggles, exercise leads to relief from worry and stress.

Researchers have found that the mental health effects of exercise are greater when you choose strenuous, aerobic forms of exercise that elevate your heart rate and increase your blood circulation. This effect sometimes takes a few weeks to be observable. Greater impact from exercise has been seen in people who either suffer from a high degree of anxiety or were not that fit to begin with.

Using Exercise to Improve Your Mental Health

If you find that you are constantly under stress, feeling anxious or suffering from persistent low self-esteem, consider incorporating a regular exercise regimen into your life. It is not uncommon when feeling low energy to avoid exercise altogether. In this case, you might want to start out slowly. Choose an activity that challenges you just enough but not to the extent to be discouraging.

Riding your bike around the block, walking in a scenic spot or hiking through a nearby trail are examples of ways to get started. As your stamina and endurance increase, challenge yourself further. Ride your bike for an extra half a mile, walk faster or hike up a steeper hill. The important thing is to challenge yourself on a cardiovascular level and to do so regularly.

Green Exercise and Mental Health

You might find that a gym is your preferred spot for exercise. If not, experiment with outdoor activities. Green exercise is any type of physical exercise performed outdoors. It has been observed to be very beneficial for people who are feeling sad or anxious. Natural environments filled with beautiful greenery, colorful flowers, mountains and bodies of water are ideal locations for physical exercise.

Nature has an enlivening yet soothing effect on your senses. It helps to calm your nerves and quiet your mind. Choose an outdoor activity that you enjoy, be it cycling, hiking, swimming or running. Green exercise is especially helpful if you consciously focus your attention on the beauty of the scenery all around you as you exercise.

On the whole, exercise is an effective strategy to improve mental health. As your body becomes more fit, your self-esteem increases. You will also sleep better. Exercise causes natural physiological changes in your body that work to elevate your mood and melt away the stress.

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