Mental illness includes conditions such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and personality disorders. It can impact one’s cognitive, behavioural and social functioning, with those affected often struggling to engage in regular work, social and physical activities to full extent. This can further impact the illness due to social isolation and frustration.
It is well known that exercise is good for our physical health, but exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve mental health. Not only can exercise help with the management and treatment of mental health, but it can also reduce the risk of developing mental illness.
During exercise, the body releases chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. These are known as “feel-good” chemicals that help to improve mood.
Benefits of exercise for mental health:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Boosts serotonin and endorphins
Improves memory, focus and cognitive skills
Helps prevent depression
Builds coping and resilience
Distraction from negative thoughts
Provides social opportunities
It is generally recommended to complete at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week. The intensity level will depend on an individual’s health status and functional capabilities. Resistance exercise has also been shown to be effective in treating mental health, however, this doesn’t mean a gym membership is essential as there are plenty of home-friendly options.
Setting short-term realistic goals each week can help to improve one’s exercise adherence but also provide a sense of accomplishment when those goals are achieved.
Working with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who understands the complexity of mental illness can be helpful when starting an exercise regime. 4 Life Exercise Physiology is here for you.