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Exercise isn't just for fitness. It improves mental health too

Exercise isn't just for fitness. It improves mental health too

Imagine not being able to exercise for a month. No runs, gym, weights or classes. You’d feel physically unfit. But – more importantly – you’d probably feel low too.

It’s not an experiment we’d recommend you do! But there’s enough research to prove that regular exercise doesn’t just sort out your muscles and bulges. It also deals with depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia and more.

In other words, you’d be crazy not to exercise!

HOW DOES EXERCISE IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH?

Research consistently shows that exercise eases symptoms of poor mental health such as anxiety and depression. It’s not a cure-all. But it ‘peps you up’ and makes you feel better. And once you’re feeling better, exercise can keep you feeling good.

Exercise releases endorphins that lift your mood and self-esteem. Hussle regularly and you’ll keep your brain topped up with these ‘feel-good’ hormones. It really works. Regular exercise has even been prescribed on the NHS to treat depression. 

Find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts? Exercise is also a good way to distract yourself. Kind of like a moving meditation. Plus, the social interaction can help you feel better too.

WHAT EXERCISE IS BEST?

Moderate-intense exercise is the most effective for beating depression. Something like HIIT, running or squash is ideal. Intense exercise also significantly increases the production of adenosine, the chemical that helps us sleep. A tired body sleeps more deeply, which helps keeps your mood positive. 

You don’t have to do it for long. One study showed just 15 minutes running a day reduced depressive symptoms by 26%. However, release of endorphins varies from person to person so you’ll have to figure out your own best level.

HOW DO I BEGIN?

The hardest bit is getting started. When you feel low it’s hard to get yourself going. Start with putting your trainers on and going outside. Then either run or head to the gym. Or get on your bike, dance, do a class or walk in the hills. Repeat several times a week! 

There are no magic pills to good mental health. Just do things that are good for you – Hussle, good food, sleep well – and you will start to feel better.

 

the author

Kath Webb

Kath is a contributing writer for Hussle. Football, running, weight training, yoga and walking are her forte, along with cooking tasty, nutritious food - with a regular batch of cake chucked in.

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