Right now, no one will be surprised by the claim that regular exercise is good for you. Among other things, we know that it reduces overweight and obesity, strengthens bones and muscles, boosts the functioning of the immune system or reduces the risk of metabolic problems (such as type 2 diabetes) or the risk of problems. cardiovascular. But beyond the simple physical and physiological, it has been said since ancient times that it also appears to be beneficial for the mental health of those who practice it.
What is this real sentence? Does exercise improve mental health? Throughout this article we will do a brief essay on the subject.
Mental health and exercise
Mental health and exercise have been frequently linked since ancient times, showing that physical well-being and regular exercise can also improve the psychological well-being of those who exercise. Today and thanks to the progress of science, we have a much more specific knowledge of different aspects that improve with exercise and some of its mechanisms: we know that sport promotes the release of endorphins, Which improves our immune system and our activation threshold and changes the chemistry of our brain so that we feel better and more active, among other things.
Recently, in research conducted by different professionals during that same year and the findings were published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal, the impact of exercise on mental health was analyzed and the situation from a “ broad sample of US citizens in terms of feeling of mental well-being.
Specifically, the number of days of distress and poor mental health reported by subjects themselves was assessed, finding that, on average, those who exercise have a lower proportion of days in which they exercise. expressed discomfort than those who have no difference per month).
Although generally all types of exercise are positive for improving physical and mental health (including activities such as housework, although their effect is much weaker), the same study seems to indicate that some of the types of sports that are more beneficial to mental health are those that involve teamwork, aerobic or gym exercises.
Clinical practice has also shown that sport is indicated to be of great benefit to people suffering from certain psychological problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, insomnia or even cognitive impairment. In fact, it is generally recommended at a preventative level or as a strategy to reduce the symptoms of various problems. The answer to the question that gives the title to this article is therefore a very clear yes.
Aspects that improve with exercise
There is a lot of research on the benefits of sport on our health, both physical and mental. In the latter area, some of the improvements that have been seen that make it highly recommended for most people, including those with a neurological or mental condition, are as follows.
1. They generate endorphins and increase the feeling of well-being
Exercise has been shown to cause the release of endorphins, endogenous opioids that have a relaxing effect and induce a feeling of satisfaction, physical and emotional well-being.
2. Improves self-image and self-esteem
Continuous exercise also has an effect on body image, reduces body weight and fat, and tones the body. This in turn has an impact on self-image and self-concept, feel more attractive, energetic and agile and in turn increase self-esteem. On top of that, maintaining a consistent routine and discipline makes us appear more cohesive and able to persevere and strive for our goals.
3. Improves mood
From all of the above and through the practice of physical exercise, it has been shown to increase well-being and allow better control and management of one’s mood, facilitate a positive emotional tone, More stable and more optimistic.
4. It slows down and prevents cognitive impairment
Largely because of the point above, it has been observed that people who exercise regularly they tend to be less likely to suffer from cognitive impairment or dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease, or slow the deterioration in their early stages.
5. Encourages discipline
Sport and exercise, in addition to concentration, require i promotes the ability to maintain a routine and commit to something that involves continuous effort overtime. Thus, it facilitates the emergence of a disciplined attitude which can be extrapolated to other areas of life.
6. Facilitates socialization
Sport is a type of activity that moves a large number of people, being a hobby shared by many. This allows you to have things in common with other people, as well as to facilitate contact with them. In addition, there are a large number of exercises or sports, such as football or basketball, which have teamwork as one of their main bases.
7. Help to fall asleep
We’ve all done a little exercise on some occasions. After that, we probably felt tired and relaxed, being able to sleep more easily if a careful time elapsed between sports and sleeping. It has been scientifically proven that in fact, regular exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and prevents the onset of insomnia.
8. Clarifies, energizes and increases motivation
Although it seems contrary to the previous point, the truth is that moderate exercise allows the person to clarify and increase his energy level in the first moments, produces alterations generated at the physiological level and in brain chemistry (for example example, raises the level of cerebral norepinephrine).
In fact, while it helps you sleep better, it is recommended that you do not do any physical activity next to you before going to bed because of this factor. This increase in activity can also increase the level of motivation and commitment to other goals.
9. Reduces withdrawal syndrome and helps fight addiction
Playing sports is a recommended activity to fight against substance dependence, as it slows down and slows down the onset of the desire for consumption and generates endogenous endorphins that make consumption less necessary, in addition to being an incompatible response to this. The influence in this regard is also linked to the alteration of circadian rhythms.
10. Fight stress and anxiety
Another of the problems in which sport is usually prescribed is suffering from stress and anxiety, as it allows distraction and concentration in one’s own activity and in the moment. they prevent continued rumination of possible concerns.
11. Stimulates proactivity and creativity
Relaxation and breaking away from worries and thoughts, in addition to the increased blood flow generated by exercise, allows new ideas and strategies to emerge more easily after exercising, and can be more creative. . In addition, increasing energy levels and motivation encourages us to be more proactive and demanding.
12. Increases the ability to concentrate and remember, and increases cognitive ability
Another of the advantages that has been observed is that sport increases the ability to concentrate and concentrate, as well as memory and general cognitive ability. It has also been shown to lead to improved academic and professional ability.
It is also precisely for these reasons that it has been observed to be beneficial for people with a certain type of intellectual disability.
Too much is not good no more
As stated above, regular exercise is a great benefit for mental health as well as physical health. However, as with most things, over-exercise can be detrimental. In fact, those who exercise more than three hours a day have worse mental health levels than those who do not exercise.
For example, as with other activities that involve increased dopamine and endorphins, excessive exercise can cause sports to acquire addictive characteristics. In this context, the child may need more and more exercise to feel good, with feelings of discomfort and restlessness in the absence of sport.
It can also lead to an overestimation of body image, giving it too high meaning and importance. It is even possible that in this context problems such as vigor arise, in which an obsession with exercise appears to have the most muscular body possible. Likewise, exercise is also used as a purging mechanism for people with eating disorders to burn calories and lose weight.
In addition to the above, it can lead to overtraining syndrome, in which overtraining and lack of sufficient rest periods can burn the person. In this context, sleep problems, loss of energy or motivation, irritability and low tolerance for frustration, low libido and low mood can appear and can even lead to depressive disorders. .
Regarding the question that gives rise to this article, the data observed by various studies allow us to conclude that in fact,regular exercise improves the mental health of those who exercise. This improvement is noticeable in many different areas, including the prevention of cognitive impairment or even the improvement of symptoms in subjects with mental disorders.
Of course, this exercise should be done in moderation and with realistic expectations. It is generally recommended that you limit exercise to around 45 (between 30 and 60 minutes) per day between three and five times per week, this is the amount of daily exercise that increases the most the level of sanity seems to generate.
- Chekroud, SR, Gueorguieva, R., Zheutlin, AB, Paulus, M., Krumholz, HM, Krystal, JH and Chekroud, AM (2018). Association between exercise and mental health in 1.2 million people in the United States between 2011-2015: a cross-sectional study. Lancet Psychiatry.
- Hardoy, CM, Seruis, ML, Floris, F., Sancassiani, F., Moro, MF; Mellino, G., Lecca, ME, Adamo, S. and Carta, MG (2011). Benefits of exercise with mini tennis in the intellectually disabled: effects on body image and psychopathology. Clin. Practice. Epidemiol. Is lying. Health. 7: 157-160.
- Kellmann, M. (2002). Infra-recovery and overtraining. In: Improve recovery, avoid low performance of athletes. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1-24.