In order to live a happy and healthy life, we need to make sure both our mental and physical health are in check. Somehow, the two keep intertwining, and if you’ve noticed that working out helps you feel better and clear your thoughts, this is precisely one of the proofs that one cannot persist without the other. Feeling good about yourself, having high self-esteem and a sense of well-being, are all the signs that your mental health is well. Doing exercise is great for mental health in general. Just being out in the fresh air, jogging, fast walking or maybe even pumping iron contributes to our mental health and boosts mood. In the time of so many sedentary jobs, it’s imperative that we find time to become active both because of our mental health but for many other reasons as well. Good mental health is essential if you want to form positive relationships, use your abilities to the fullest, and deal with all the challenges life brings.
Engaging in team sports is one of the best examples of physical activities that benefit both the body and the mind. Aside from improving your coordination of movements, sport helps you develop so many life skills as well. Having to understand everybody’s role within the team while having to think tactically, makes your brain do double time and stays alert at all times. While being engaged into a game of basketball or volleyball you get to think about various tactics that can help you beat the opponent, making you develop various brain skills that can help you stay focused and think quickly in some of the future non-sport situations. By keeping you occupied about the game, your mind won’t wander and you’ll be more interested in the present moment, which will also help you gain some perspective about life and distract you from troubling thoughts that may have been inside your head while you were at home doing nothing.
Spending time with other people while you’re all working out or playing a sports game, gives you the opportunity to socialise which is incredibly important for everyone’s mental health. Being surrounded by like-minded people will improve your mood and help you feel like you’re a part of the group and that you actually belong there.
Coping With Loss
Staying active and working on your physical activity usually comes with a certain goal. Whether that goal is to lose weight so you can stay healthy, or maybe compete in a game of football, winning is the ultimate result. If you decide to engage in professional sport, you’ll quickly have to learn to deal with winning and with losing. The same goes with having a goal of losing weight and improving your stamina. You might not be able to accomplish that goal in the time period that you’ve set for yourself, but that’s okay. It’ll only help you learn that not everything in life concerns winning. Sometimes you’ll have to lose a game of football or extend your time period for weight loss.
Being able to move on from disappointments quickly and learning to find the new object towards which you’re going to strive is a valuable lesson that staying active will help you learn, thus keeping your mental health in check. Not being able to move on after a disappointment, and letting it hold you back from making any progress is one of the worst things for your mental health, which is why you should do your best to stay active, always work hard, and learn to cope with losses and defeats. Nobody is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you should stop striving towards perfection.
Physical Activity Improves Mood
Have you ever wondered why you feel so good after a running session, or after coming home from the beach in the summer? That’s precisely because physical activity activates serotonin i.e. a hormone that plays a critical role in mood. Add endorphins to the mix and you’ve got yourself an entire arsenal of positive feelings that will only make you work hard and stay in shape even after reaching your desired goals. That’s why if you’ve considered getting back in shape, you should do it for more reasons than just to look good. Sticking to a regular and meticulously planned exercise program will help you to gain your desired body weight while also improving your mental health.
Breaking a sweat will block negative thoughts and distract you from daily worries while helping you get those gorgeous abs you’ve always dreamed of. Furthermore, increased physical activity also helps fight off depression, according to clinical psychologists at Duke University. Namely, they suggest that exercises are just as good as antidepressants and are very recommended to people suffering or the ones who are at a high risk of depression. By reaching your daily goals, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment which is essential in fighting off depression. They suggest that aside from treating depression, physical activity also prevents relapse.
Poor Mental Health Increases the Risk of Physical Illness
It is also true that poor mental health can contribute to an increased risk of developing physical illnesses. Hypertension, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal problems, and obesity are just some of the illnesses you could face if your mental health is poor. Hypertension can easily some from worrying too much and constantly feeling scared or concerned about yourself and others. Stressing yourself out by negative thoughts is the perfect recipe for high blood pressure and a sea of other chronic illnesses that you will most likely end up with unless you learn to distract yourself with exercise. Many people seek comfort in food when they don’t know how to cope with their troublesome thoughts, which often leads to overweight and eventually obesity.
Struggling with such serious physical conditions can be tedious and make you avoid exercises even more, which is why it’s essential that you find your peace precisely at the gym. It doesn’t even have to be rigorous workouts at first. You should start small and see how light jogs work for you. A half an hour workout with weights or on a treadmill, a 45-minute aerobics class of medium intensity or maybe just observing a Zumba class, will help you gain a better perspective on the whole workout regimen.
Inflammation and Brain Connection
The condition of our immune system depends a lot on the gut and the interplay between the gut and the brain is a complex and immensely significant relationship. You know how sometimes you get butterflies in your stomach before a date or end up with diarrhoea before a big test? Well, that’s because anxiety or nervousness can majorly impact our guts. Inflammation stems from many sources, such as pathogens, sugars, chemicals, and stress. An article from BetterHelp explains how chronic stress, for example, can impact your physical health, with many such physical health issues arising out of increased inflammation.
In the brain, inflammation serves to jumpstart anxiety-provoking chemicals like quinoline, instead of making serotonin and melatonin the primary hormones in the body. As a result, you’ll experience so-called “sickness syndrome” which also contributes to depression symptoms such as lethargy, sleep disturbance, and decreased social activity, mobility.
Exercise Prevents Anxiety
Not only is physical activity essential for treating depression, but it is also closely connected to helping people with anxiety. Whenever you’re spooked or threatened, your nervous systems jump into action, setting off a myriad of reactions. Dizziness, a racing heart, and sweating are just some of the uncomfortable reactions that can be triggered, which are the first signs of anxiety. People who are more likely to experience anxiety find fear to be the first instinct with which they should respond to those reactions. In addition, panic disorders are likely to be the result of those responses. Considering the body produces very similar reactions to anxiety when it’s breaking a sweat, such as sweating, increased heart rate, and faster breathing, it’s advised to people suffering from anxiety to engage in strenuous workouts. This will teach them there is no reason for them to have a panic attack because their body is just experiencing enhanced activity.
Exercise Helps With Sleep
It’s been proven that good sleep patterns improve concentration, energy levels and help the body heal faster after an illness. Lack of sleep contributes to mood swings, depression and decreases our physical abilities, which in return can be detrimental for our mental health. Therefore, it’s essential that you have a good night’s sleep if you want to keep your mental and physical health in check. When we say “good night’s sleep”, we mean all the stages of sleep, from “quiet” sleep which consists of four stages of an increasingly deep sleep, to REM sleep. During “quiet” sleep the body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow. Physiological changes that help boost immune system functioning occur in the deepest stage of sleep, which is one of the most important ones. During the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, our learning and memory are enhanced, and it is the phase which contributes to emotional health the most. As previously mentioned, one cannot function properly without the other, and staying physically active will help you fight insomnia.
If you’re sitting behind the desk for more than 8 hours every day, you should have at least an hour-long training session outside or at the gym to compensate for all the hours of being passive. If you manage to burn all the calories you’ve taken in during the day, you’ll promote weight gain but also insomnia. The body needs to stay active in order to feel tired and allow you a good night’s sleep, which is essential for your mind and body. Both your brain and your body need to recharge and reset during the night, and it can only be done if you have uninterrupted sleep. Depression, anxiety and weight gain are just some of the side effects of insomnia, that can further be caused by lack of physical activity. You can see it’s all connected into a magical circle that requires you to be active enough if you want to make sure your mental health is protected.
Final Thoughts on Mental and Physical Health
A person can only be healthy if their mental, physical and emotional health are in check. That’s why it’s essential that you pay attention to your way of life and not risk jeopardising either aspect of your health. Engaging in physical activity will help you maintain a lean figure and fight off various diseases because your immune system will be strong. Furthermore, by staying active you’ll keep the worrying thoughts away from your mind and make sure you’re nowhere near depressing ideas. By keeping a clear mind, you’ll also prevent various illnesses such as hypertension and obesity, because you won’t crowd your mind with too many negative thoughts. Having a good night’s sleep should also be a part of your lifestyle if you want to have a vigorous body and a healthy mind. Only after your body has been recharged through the night, will it be able to function properly and allow you to think clearly throughout the day.
Mia Johnson is a freelance writer and fitness expert from Sydney, Australia