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Did you know that exercising can keep you mentally healthy?  Research shows that those who exercise regularly have better mental and emotional health and lower rates of mental illness.  Exercise also reduces the risk of developing a mental illness.  Research has also shown that regular exercise can be as effective in treating depression as antidepressants or behavioral cognitive therapy.

How does exercise make us feel better?  It can boost your mood, concentration and alertness.  Regular exercise improves sleep which helps with your moods.  It can also improve your coping ability, self-esteem, and your ability to achieve goals which makes you feel good.  It can also distract negative thoughts.  Another benefit of a regular exercise program is its effects on chemicals in the brain, including serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins which are our feel good hormones.

Energy levels increase with regular exercise.  It also helps you relax because of its impact on skeletal muscle tension.  Even a moderate amount of exercise can benefit those with poor or less than optimal mental health

Where and How do I start?  Always have a plan.  Choose and activity you enjoy and build up that activity gradually.  Write your plan down and add it to your daily/weekly schedule and track your progress.  Visual progress tends to work well for most people.

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Exercise & ADHD

Exercise reduces the symptoms of ADHD by improving concentration, motivation, memory and mood.  Physical activity boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels which all affect focus and attention.  Exercise works in a similar way as ADHD medications do.

Exercise and PTSD/Trauma

Evidence suggests that really focusing on the body and how it feels when exercising can help you begin to move out of the immobilization stress response with PTSD or trauma.  Some of the best choices for exercise in these individuals include movement that involves both arms and legs such as running, swimming, weight training and outdoor activities.

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How to overcome obstacles to exercise

When you are tired, depressed or stressed, you do not feel like exercising.  But exercise is a huge mood booster.  Studies show that regular exercises drastically reduces fatigue and increases energy levels.  Even if its a 5-10 minute walk, chances are once you get moving you will be motivated to go a little further and feel better.

When you feel overwhelmed with life or situations in general, it’s very difficult to even think about adding something else to your plate like exercise.  However, if you can make it a priority, you will find the time.  You may have to get creative, especially if you have younger kids.  But you can involve them as well and make it fun for both of you.

Having trouble getting motivated?  Ask a friend to join you and that will hold you accountable.  Not only is it good for you to exercise, but socializing improves your mood as well.  When we are stressed and depressed, we tend to isolate ourselves, leaving us to dwell in our thoughts and emotions that drag us down.  Exercising with a partner helps pull you out of that and distracts you.  Even just talking about some of your feelings with someone usually makes you feel better.