We all know that exercise is vital for a healthy body, but research is showing that regular physical activity is just as important for a healthy mind.
Did you know?
- Exercise lifts your mood – especially aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, running and cycling or resistance training (lifting weights in a gym).
- People who are inactive are up to twice as likely to have depressive symptoms than active people.
- Regular exercise can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease by up to 40%.
Exercise & mood
Take a look at Happify’s colourful infographic to find out more about the mood benefits of exercise. Just click on the image below to link to the full picture.
Exercise & mental health conditions
Physical activity not only appears to reduce the symptoms and frequency of depression but, better still, reduces the risk of becoming depressed at all. It also improves self-esteem, coping skills and cognitive functioning among those living with depression.
Interestingly, the intensity and length of the activity appear to be less important than how often we exercise. Frequent light or moderate-intensity activity has been shown to improve the mood of people with major depressive disorders.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, physical activity is effective in the treatment of clinical depression and can be just as successful as psychotherapy or medication, particularly in the longer term. It may also help people with generalised anxiety disorder, phobias, panic attacks and stress disorders, and can have a positive effect on the psychological well-being of people living with schizophrenia. In fact, it seems regular activity can enhance the quality of life for most people living with a mental illness.
Exercise & dementia
US research suggests regular exercise can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease by up to 40%. The study found the more frail a person was, the more exercise was likely to benefit them and only a regular gentle work-out was needed to produce a positive effect - even for people aged over 65.
The results also suggest exercise might help to delay progression of dementia in people who already have symptoms. People who exercised 3 more times a week had a 30% to 40% lower risk of developing dementia compared with those who exercised fewer than 3 times per week. Exercise may improve brain function by boosting blood flow to areas of the brain used for memory.
How does it work?
Mood enhancing chemicals called endorphins are released into your blood stream during and after being active. These are the body’s natural painkillers and are responsible for the pleasant ‘feel good’ factor we often feel after being active.
Physical activity improves muscle and heart function, increases blood flow to the brain and increases the efficiency of brain chemicals. It can also promote better sleep. There is some evidence that being active can improve cognitive functioning in older people.
Physical activity can:
- improve self-esteem
- give you a sense of control over life
- introduce a feeling of personal achievement
- help with weight control, which can help you feel better about yourself
- provide opportunities for socialising and meeting new friends.
If you're over 40, have existing health problems or muscle, bone or joint injuries, or you have not exercised regularly in the recent past, check with your doctor before undertaking an exercise programme.