Mental and Physical Health

Exercise for Your Mental Health

8 minutes

What is the overlap between physical and mental health?

Exercise for your mental health is real. Your mental and physical state go hand in hand. The condition of your mental health can directly impact the condition of your physical health, either bad or good. If you knew that your mental well being was so closely affected by your physical health, wouldn’t you want to improve it? Depression is a very common mental health issue resulting from stress and poor mental health. By taking care of yourself and your mental health, you could aid in the prevention of heart attacks, strokes and more with a healthy mind.

If your physical health is poor or lacking, your mental health is likely to suffer as well. Your body could react with common skin conditions that follow stress and depression such as psoriasis, which is often found in people struggling with their mental and physical health. The psychological impact that plagues these individuals can greatly impact their overall well-being and quality of life. Diagnosis of a life altering disease or undergoing a severe heart attack can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and completely disrupt your mental health.

One study found, “There is a strong link between mental health and physical health”. After looking at the direct and indirect effects on mental health from physical health, they looked at data from 10,693 individuals aged 50 years and over from six waves (2002–2012) of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and found “significant direct and indirect effects for both forms of health, with indirect effects explaining 10% of the effect of past mental health on physical health and 8% of the effect of past physical health on mental health. Physical activity is the largest contributor to the indirect effects. There are stronger indirect effects for males in mental health (9.9%) and for older age groups in mental health (13.6%) and in physical health (12.6%).”

How can physical activity assist in the treatment of anxiety and depression?

Even though working out feels like the last thing you want to do when you feel anxious or depressed, it is the answer! Overcoming the lack of motivation can be hard, but will help in making a huge difference in your overall physical and mental health. Working out consistently can help prevent a number of health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and more as well as mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, mood improvement and more.

How does exercise help?

Exercising consistently can improve your mental health state by…

  • Releasing endorphins – the feel-good brain chemicals that enhance your sense of well being
  • Relieve stress – allows you to think clearly and remove yourself from negative thoughts that have plagued your mental health
  • Give you Confidence – by accomplishing your exercise goals, you’ll find a sense of meaning and accomplishment that will allow you to feel good about yourself and be more confident in social situations.
  • Learn how to Manage – by creating a healthy routine, you teach yourself how to cope with your negative feelings in a healthy way, allowing you to grow as a person and feel better about yourself

Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression, “suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate a depressed mood in many people. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.”

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is responsible for the parts of your brain that control your mood, motivation, and fear. It is also known as your body’s natural alarm system and main stress hormone. Located at the top of your kidneys, your adrenal glands, are in control of producing cortisol. Cortisol is important for a number of reasons. “Involved in the regulation of the following functions and more”:

  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Immune function
  • Inflammatory response
  • Insulin release

Cortisol is responsible for feelings of anxiety and is produced as a consequence of excessive worry or tension, activating your fight-or-flight response. Cortisol production can lead to faster breathing which often go hand in hand with feelings of panic, anxiety and a desire to remove yourself from the situation at hand.

According to the CEDM, “the heightened state of arousal that cortisol provides as a stress response to a tangible event is invigorating and helpful. Cortisol levels then return to normal upon completion of the episode. But when free-floating anxiety interferes, there’s no outlet for the cortisol and it causes the fight-or-flight mechanism to backfire. Cortisol levels remain elevated, creating additional anxiety, and ultimately causing a multitude of serious health issues, including digestive disorders, immune deficiencies, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.” So what happens when cortisol is reduced?

Cortisol is responsible for regulating our bodies response to pressure as a stress hormone. Low Cortisol levels can make you feel fatigued, weak and even lower your blood pressure. If your cortisol levels are low, you could be suffering from adrenal failure, Addison disease or something similar.
Pregnancy, excessive stress and even infection can affect your cortisol levels. Medications can also act as a factor in low levels. Being aware of what your body is telling you by looking at your cortisol levels is so important. Booking an appointment with a psychiatrist or mental health professional can help you understand your symptoms and situation better.

Walk vs Run vs Weight lifting (combo effect?)

As we now know, exercise is a great way to improve your overall health when you are not feeling like yourself. Determining what kind of exercises are best for maintaining your mental and physical health is a good place to start.

Cardio such as running and aerobic exercises are very effective in mood regulation. They can also help with regulating your mood and act as an antidepressant, helping so many different individuals with their struggle with depression. Although the results are not instant, with consistency and a little bit of time you will find your heart and brain health improve immensely.

Running is a great activity to provide a feeling of power over oneself, gain confidence and give yourself a sense of purpose. Endorphins, which are released when running, often referred to as the “runner’s high” are chemicals that cause a natural high and are released during exercise. Most people find that running acts as a form of meditation as well, allowing you to clear your head and let go of unruly thoughts that plagued you before.

Weight training is also a great option for your mental health and your overall mood. A study published in the June issue of JAMA Psychiatry found “after examining the results of 33 randomized clinical trials involving more than 1,800 people. They found that people with mild to moderate depression who performed resistance training two or more days a week saw “significant” reductions in their symptoms, compared with people who did not. The findings also suggested that resistance exercises may be even more beneficial for those with more severe depressive symptoms.”

Looking at the benefits of both weights and cardio we can see that a combination of the two proves to be the most effective. Dr. Jason Bennie, a senior research fellow at the University of Southern Queensland, analyzed the data of 1.48 million American adults, 18 percent of whom had diagnosed depression, between 2011 and 2017.

The participants were placed into two separate groups based on the amount of strength training versus aerobic training they did, ranging from no physical activity to 2x the recommended activity. From there, they looked at the association with depression found in the candidates. “The results, published in Depression and Anxiety, showed those who did twice the recommended amount of physical activity were half as likely to have depression compared to those who were inactive.”

The study shows that doing both strength training and aerobic exercise in your workout regimen is the most beneficial for your overall mental health.

TMS as an Alternative

Medication, talking to a Therapist and working out sometimes only help so much. TMS can be used on its own as a sole treatment plan or as an augment to medications such as antidepressants and psychotherapy. Lots of patients who had exhausted all other routes have found hope again with TMS Therapy.

TMS is a safe, non-invasive therapy. During a TMS session, a coil is put on the patient’s head where magnetic pulses are then delivered to the brain to stimulate sluggish, underactive brain cells that are responsible for mood regulation. During the procedure, patients are awake and can continue the rest of their day without any down time or debilitating symptoms.

If you or a loved one is searching for a solution to your problem, take our Depression screening or find a provider near you today who can assist you with your journey to feel better again with TMS. TMS Therapy can prepare you to be in your best mental fitness shape for the years to come.

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