Mental health has become a strongly discussed topic in today’s world and rightly so. With more and more people vocalising their struggles with mental health, it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re looking after yours.
The How and Why of Mental Health
You’ll be pleased to know, that when indulging in physical activity, you’re bringing a whole array of benefits to your body – many of which you may not have realised.
1. Reduces Depression, Anxiety and Stress
Although there’s growing awareness that exercise helps to improve depression, anxiety and stress, it’s still not a dominant reason why people choose to be active. In many cases, people tend to turn to medication and other remedies to treat their stresses, not realising how great a gentle run or yoga session can be too.
Studies show that exercise can be used to treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. It is important though to speak with a Doctor and find out the best plan for you.
Reasons why exercise helps fight depression:
- Promotes changes in the brain including neural growth, reduced inflammation and promotes feelings of calm and well-being.
- Releases endorphins that energise you, making you feel happy and positive.
- It acts as a distraction from depressed thoughts and gives you opportunities to socialise and meet new people, all of which help to boost spirits.
Exercise is known to help with anxiety. Through fully-focusing on your fitness sessions you can tune your body to be mindful about your exercise, receiving more health benefits.
Reasons why exercise helps fight anxiety:
- By concentrating on the sensations that happen during exercise, you can interrupt the flow of worries in your mind and improve physical condition quicker. For example, you can workout to the beat or rhythm of the music or focus on the sensation of your feet hitting the ground.
- Relieves tension and stress through performing stretches that loosen tight muscles.
- Boosts physical and mental energy through the release of endorphins.
When you are stressed more often than not, your body tenses up. Your muscles begin to tighten particularly in your face, neck and chest area, which can lead to headaches, chest pains, a pounding pulse and muscle cramps. Experiencing these stress-related symptoms can lead to you worrying more which brings on a whole array of other symptoms. These include heartburn, insomnia, and stomachache. The more pains you get, the more stressed you become and sadly, you’re found battling a vicious cycle between your mind and body.
Reasons why exercise helps fight stress:
- Exercise helps to break the cycle of worrying by mixing up your routine.
- Releases endorphins in the brain that help the muscles to relax and relieve the built up tension in your body.
- Makes sleeping easier which reduces any sleep-related stress from your mind.
Remember: When your body feels better, so will your mind.
2. Helps Sharpen Memory and Thinking
The same endorphins that work to boost your mood also improve your concentration. This makes you mentally ‘sharp’ when completing tasks. Physical activities that require hand-eye coordination such as tennis, badminton or squash, are particularly beneficial for brain building.
Reasons exercise helps the brain stay sharp:
- Increases the level of oxygen to your brain improving circulation.
- Breaks the mental fatigue and slumps often experienced during a day’s work. Short walks at lunch time or even a few jumping jacks can help reboot your brain for an afternoon of learning.
- Stimulates the growth of new brain cells, reducing the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss and enhancing the effects of helpful brain chemicals.
Whatsmore, the birth of new brain cells also fight against age-related decline. That means by doing daily fitness activities, you can keep your body looking and feeling like your younger, healthier self. Perfect!
3. Gives Your Immune System A Boost
Catching a cold can leave you feeling blue mentally as well as physically. As you feel groggy from a blocked nose and sore head, you tend to act groggy too. Though we’re not suggesting exercising whilst you’re ill is a good idea, frequently exercising when healthy can help to combat illness, boost your immune system and make you feel happier.
Reasons why exercise improves your immune system:
- Getting active helps to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, reducing your chances of developing a cold, flu or other illness.
- Exercise causes your white blood cells (WBC) to circulate quicker helping you to detect illnesses earlier than before. White blood cells are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease.
- Slows down the release of stress hormones making your mind a more peaceful place.
4. Improved Self-Esteem And Energy
Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body and soul.
Along with the feelings of conquering your fitness goals, finding a healthy, balanced routine will also work to give you an energy boost.
Getting Into A Routine
- Start easing yourself into exercise with a 10 minute home workout, walking the dog or quite simply having a dance around your room.
- Increase your workout by extending the time you are active for or start going to more fitness classes.
- Establish a routine of which days you will exercise.
- Even on your days off, making simple changes to your fitness routine like taking the stairs instead of a lift or going for a short walk instead of sitting on the sofa can keep your brain active and stresses at bay.
Remember: The key to unlocking improved mental health through exercise is to do it regularly. The more you workout and get active, generally, the healthier and happier you will feel.
Family-Friendly, Mixed Gender Sport Ideas
Having looked at six reasons why and how sport helps mental health, let’s take a look at some ways you can adapt sports into your daily routine.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring, gender-specific or child-unfriendly. Here are some great ideas to incorporate some moderate exercise into your daily routine:
- Taking daily 20 to 30 minute walks during work breaks, after dinner to walk the dog and so on. Develop this by joining hiking clubs and take to trekking through the wilderness. You’ll soon be saying ‘the bigger the hills the better!’
- Go cycling with your children a few times a week. Particularly if you live on a quiet road, going up and down the street and having races, can be super fun as well as tiring! Or, make the most of cycling clubs and enjoy a group venture to the hundreds of mountain bike trails out there.
- There’s plenty of male and female football clubs knocking about. Join a team and enjoy the competitive side to sports whilst making new friends. Some clubs also offer family-friendly football games for parents and children to play together, so ask if your club does or organise it yourself!
- Family swimming sessions every other weekend. Take advantage of your local leisure centre or make it a fun, family-bonding activity, venturing to the swimming baths every so often.
- Play social, leisurely sports like golf. Done regularly can help you build friendships with other players, which contributes to boosting your mood and confidence, improving your mental health.
- Fit some physical activity in your evenings by joining the local gym and taking part in fitness or yoga classes. See some awesome yoga tutorials here for use at home.
Ultimately, if there’s one thing you should’ve learnt from this article, it’s any exercise is better than none when taking care of your mental health.
By improving circulation of important cells in the body, loosening tight muscles from built up stress and distracting yourself from worrying thoughts, you can make yourself into a happier, healthier you. So, go forth and fitness!
Sara Whitehouse, SEO and Content Editor at Stadia Sports
Stadia Sports are a leading UK manufacturer and supplier of sports equipment, offering a wide range of products including football goals, football nets and accessories.