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How Does the Physical Influence the Mental

How the Physical Influences the Mental

It’s a no-brainer that exercise is highly beneficial for the body, as it reduces the risk of developing obesity, heart disease, or diabetes, but many people aren’t aware how important it is for their mental health. Fitness enthusiasts report positive effects of physical activity on their overall well-being. Apart from helping you lose your weight and making your muscles toned, exercise is efficient in alleviating the symptoms of depression, dementia, stress, and even ADHD. Another good thing is that you don’t have to spend hours sweating on a treadmill before you start enjoying the benefits of an active lifestyle. All it takes is approximately 150 minutes of moderate workouts a week, but depending on your age and fitness level, even squeezing in a quick 10-minute session three times a week can work, too.

Mens Sana

There’s no better way to recuperate from a long, stressful day than by going for a walk or run, and ironically, people usually fail to take full advantage of this simple, natural, and easily-available method of coping with the daily grind. Some studies have shown that exercise is equally effective in treating mild to moderate depression as taking medication, minus the unpleasant side effects. Not to mention it is what comes most naturally to your body. When you’re working out, your brain releases endorphins, the chemicals responsible for diminishing exercise-related pain, in order to make your body capable of exercising for an extended period of time and at a higher intensity. They create euphoric feelings, known as an “endorphin rush”, and energize your body and mind. Besides these, purely physiological aspects, exercise can serve as a distraction from that never-ending, vicious circle of negative thoughts and emotions. In spite of the fact that its mood-lifting effects kick in after only 5 minutes, physical activity still isn’t used to its full potential as a natural remedy for alleviating depression.

It’s a shocking stat that only one in four adults in the U.S. practice some kind of physical activity. There are several reasons for this, and the first one of them might be that people tend to push it too hard when they start a new fitness program and cross their respiratory threshold, which in turn delays the mood-boosting effects for about 30 minutes, thus leading to frustration. Insisting on the physical effects of the exercise is another culprit. Namely, it can take months before any results of strenuous physical activity are visible, and people are convinced that they’ll have to wait for months in order to start feeling better, too. This, however, is not true, and you should certainly give exercise a try, without burdening it with too many expectations. 

Defragment Your Mind

In 2015, an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide suffered from dementia. By 2030, this number will skyrocket to 74.7 million, so research studies which have shown that physical activity can improve memory and thinking skills offer some hope regarding prevention and treatment. A small study from 2016 has indicated that aerobic exercise has improved the brain’s ability to form synaptic connections. This characteristic of the brain means that it can change and recover after damage. Apart from that, aerobic physical activity contributes to the growth of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for learning and verbal memory. We’re talking about only 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five times a week, that can make a big difference. Training that gets your heart pumping also stimulates the production of a protein which triggers neuron growth. The trick is in a persistent, long-term fitness regimen.

De-Stress Your Body

Sometimes it seems practically impossible to avoid stress. A lot of work to do, all those bills to pay, and all the things you need to take care of can exhaust you, and soon, when you can’t cope with the demands of your daily routine, stress rears its ugly head and puts your health at risk. You can expect elevated blood pressure, insomnia, heartburn, cramped muscles, and soaring cortisol levels. Many people say that they don’t have enough time to exercise, especially when their schedules are packed, but the thing is that physical activity reinvigorates both the body and mind, and boosts your productivity. By increasing blood flow to the brain and stimulating the release of serotonin, a complete body workout effectively reduces stress and eliminates its side effects. And when you feel less stressed, you will be able to accomplish more in less time, thus giving you more free time, not less!

Trick Your Mind

All this stands to reason, and it’s almost certain that even people who don’t exercise are perfectly aware that their sedentary lifestyle will result in some kind of disease, and yet they’re not doing anything to prevent it. Changing this an-accident-waiting-to-happen scenario is a challenging task, although it’s incomprehensible why someone who is facing serious health issues doesn’t want to at least give exercise a try and sacrifice 10 minutes of their time a day, if it means that they could change their future for the better. However, this is a common psychological issue, since when everything looks bleak, it’s hard to spark motivation and get the ball rolling. There are some tricks that can help you overcome your fears and frustrations. When you’re depressed, remember that baby steps are an effective method of moving forward. Even a 5-minute walk is a great achievement, because it’s better than doing nothing. And the great news is that it’s never actually 5 minutes, as the hardest part is forcing yourself to put your sneakers on and get out. Once you’re outside, it’s much easier to keep walking. Scheduling your workout is also important, so make sure to keep track of your exercise routine. If you’re experiencing pain during exercising due to a disability, injury, or weight issue, try exercising in water.

Having a muscular, toned body is great, but don’t perceive exercise only through the lens of physical appearance, as it’s a very powerful method of maintaining your mental health. If you learn to view all the physical benefits as a mere side effect of exercise, and focus on the mental – you will soon find you are also looking much better.

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.