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Let’s be honest about it, many of us do not wake up in the morning with great enthusiasm and anticipation to spend the little free time that we have from our busy daily schedules on exercising. We all know it’s good for our health but do you also know that it improves your mental health and reduces the risk of developing mental disorders? The following points should convince you to start combing more physical activity in your life.

1.Improves mood: Exercising leads to an increased release of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine, which improve the mood, alertness and enthusiasm. Research shows that many people felt more satisfied, calmer, positive, upbeat and had a sense of accomplishments after the workout. Doing physical activities is also a good coping strategy for regulating negative emotions such as anger

2. Boosts self-confidence and self-efficacy: With every improvement on personal bests and as the skills /capabilities become stronger, more developed and accomplished, the more you begin to believe in your own capabilities, self and ability to achieve desirable physical goals. Challenging physical activities can also function as proofs of endurance, determination, strength and may alter your beliefs about your ability to reach other achievements in life that go beyond the physical body. Achievements, as well as, setback are good exercises in dealing with frustrations and disappointments. Not to forget also getting out of the comfort zone,which is good for personal growth.It also help with learning the importance of setting realistic standards for yourself and of acceptance.

3. Relives stress and anxiety– When the body goes into a fight and flight mode(by anxiety or stress) many physical symptoms appear such as increased heart rate, sweating, heavy breathing, tensed muscles etc. These are similar physical reactions to the physical reactions that appear with aerobic exercises, for example. Doing regular works out thus re -associates the physical reactions not with danger and anxiety, but with safety, positive and healthy body reactions. It also shows that the imagined catastrophic outcomes of these physical sesations will not happen. It is in a sense an exposure exercise. The outcome reduces anxiety, the occurrence of panic attacks and as a result improves mental well- being.

Physical activity can influence the hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal axis, which adjusts our reaction to stress. Yoga was found to moderates the stress response of the body by decreasing physiological arousal and promote self-soothing, calmness and relaxed muscles.

4.Reduces depression and it can improve the quality of life – Physical activity improves mood and motivation. Regular physical activity provides structure, meaning, a sense of accomplishment and mastery to someone who feels depressed. Focusing on the body during the physical activity also forms a distraction from continuous negative thoughts. Additionally, choosing to exercise routinely promotes a sense of control and autonomy over life. It can empower and promote the creation of further changes, as well as, alter the perception of own helplessness.

5.Enhances social connections Non competitive team sports promote peer support, social adjustment, a sense of belonging thus reduce social isolation and loneliness, as well as, reduce vulnerability to mental health adversities.

6.Improvement in body image– When the results of physical activities are visible in body strength, stamina ,muscle tone, body shape and weight loss, the evaluation of the body becomes more positive, which also contributes to self-confidence and social confidence.

 
7.Lowers the risk of the development and/or the further decline of Dementia- Studies show that physical activity can improve mental agility and cognitive function (i.e. attention, concentration, memory, fluid intelligence ). A study that tested respondents before and after 25 years of regular cardio respiratory fitness has found improvement in the test results of the verbal memory, faster psychomotor speed (the link between thinking skills and physical movement) and improved executive functioning (e.g. time management, planning, organizing, impulse control, attention, flexible thinking, self monitoring, initiating actions, working memory). Exercise thus increases cognitive and mental efficiency.

8.boosts resilience- Turn to physical activities in difficult time instead of avoidance behaviours such as consuming alcohol, drugs, self medicating etc which worsens and add problems to your life. Physical activities are healthy coping strategies that will also boost your resilience.

Are you convinced enough to integrate more physical activity in your schedual? Have you noticed these benefits already in your own life?

 

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Etnier, J. L., Salazar, W., Landers, D. M., Petruzzello, S. J., Han, M.,& Nowell, P. (1997). The Influence of Physical Fitness and Exercise Upon Cognitive Functioning: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport & exercise Psychology 19: 249-277.

Galper, D.I. (2006). Inverse association between physical inactivity and mental health in men and women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,38,173-178.

Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 8,2, 106.

Smits, J.A., Berry, A.C., Rosenfield, D., Powers, M.B., Behar, E., &Otto, M.W. (2008). Reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise. Depression and Anxiety ,25,8,689-99.

 ten Have, M., de Graaf, R., Monshouwer, K.(2011). Physical exercise in adults and mental health status: Findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS).The Journal of Psychosomatic Research.71, 342-348.

Zhu, N., Jacobs, D.R. Jr, Schreiner, P.J. Yaffe, K., Bryan, N. et al (2014).Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age: the CARDIA study. Neurology, 82,15, 1339-1346.

 

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