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Physical Exercise and Mental Health

We are constantly told that physical exercise is good to keep our bodies physically healthy, but did you know it can have tremendous effects on your mental health too?

Physical activity can provide many physical benefits to our heart, muscles, bones, weight, sex life and can even add years to our lives, but many people that stay physically active tend to do so for their mental well-being. People that exercise regularly sleep better, feel more energetic, have sharper memories and feel more positive about themselves and their lives. Regardless of fitness level or age, people can use physical activity to improve their quality of life, energy and outlook. In addition, exercise is a vital component to combating many mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and ADHD.

To reap the benefits of physical exercise, research indicates that running for 15 minutes or walking for 1 hour a day can decrease the risk of major depression by 26%. Furthermore, regular physical exercise has been proven to be as effective as anti-depressants at treating mild to moderate depression. Exercise has become a preferable choice at treating depression due to the lack of negative side effects, and also the positive healthy changes it makes in the brain such as reduced inflammation, neural growth and a release of endorphins. These endorphins also help combat anxiety by releasing tension and stress.

Regular physical activity is an investment in your body and mental health. Exercise will build resilience and increase the ability to cope with challenging life circumstances instead of resulting in drugs, alcohol and other negative coping mechanisms and influences. When facing adversities, it may be challenging to choose a path to recovery, and the thought of going for a run may seem out of reach. Common mental barriers to exercise some people may experience is exhaustion. We may feel that going for a run may be the last thing we want to do when feeling physically and mentally drained, but the truth is that exercise is a powerful energy booster. A quick 5-minute walk or run will definitely increase your energy levels and resilience.

The best thing of all, exercise is free! Staying active doesn’t require lots of expensive equipment or gym membership. Taking a walk, a run or a home workout is free and can be done in the comfort of your own home or local area.

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