By Mariana Rosa, Edited by Rachel Petersen
The first thing a lot of people think of when they hear the word “exercise” is weight loss. They’re not wrong for making this connection, but exercising can improve your health and well-being in many different ways beyond weight loss. What very few people realize is that when you exercise, you’re not only taking care of your body and reducing the risks of developing chronic diseases, but also looking after your mental health.
Studies have shown that staying active helps our brain to produce serotonin and hormones such as endorphins, which have been proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. In some cases, exercising can work just as effectively as taking medication to treat these conditions. According to a study published in Lancet Psychiatry in 2018, any type of exercise carried out between four to five times per week resulted in participants experiencing improved mental health. In addition to this, the study also determined that certain activities such as team sports, cycling, and aerobic/gym workouts are the most effective when it comes to improving mental health. These activities have the most benefits as they get participants out of the house and often into group dynamics where they can socialize, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
It’s important to understand the link between physical and mental health to get the best results out of your work out, but this also includes knowing your limits. The Lancet Psychiatry study also found that too much or excessive exercise can have a negative effect on people experiencing anxiety and depression. The trick is to start slow and listen to your body when working out. So long as you’re acknowledging and respecting your limits, exercise will have some great benefits for body and mind.