Gotta Run: Mental Benefits of Exercise for Tough Times – Salisbury Post
I have been home for about a month now and most of it has been wonderful. But every day the home seems to bring more news of rising prices and shortages of goods. Last week’s discussions between runners and walkers included the challenges of finding your favorite running shoe. Why is this as important as the rising costs of gasoline, home heating and groceries? Because the mental benefits of exercise help us cope with concerns and issues that otherwise seem overwhelming. I thought today was a great time to visit the reasons why exercise helps.
Exercise isn’t just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. Of course, exercise can improve your physical health and physique, reduce your waistline, improve your sex life, and even add years to your life. But that’s not what motivates most people to stay active.
People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them a tremendous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have more vivid memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their life. And it is also a potent drug for many common mental health issues.
This is by far the most important reason I run. I tell people almost daily that I need it, not for the physical benefits but for the feeling of well-being. I read last week that up to 20% of everyone reading this has a prescription for mind-altering drugs.
Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and improves your overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the rewards. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference. Regardless of your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to deal with mental health issues, improve your energy and outlook, and get the most out of life.
Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression just as effectively as antidepressants, but without the side effects, of course. As an example, a recent study by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health found that running 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduced the risk of major depression by 26%.
Exercise is a powerful fighter against depression for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new patterns of activity that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find a quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that fuel depression.
Exercise is a natural and effective treatment for anxiety and depression. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and improves well-being through the release of endorphins, powerful chemicals in the brain that make us feel good. Physical activity helps relax muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since mind and body are so closely linked, when your body feels better, so does your mind.
When you are faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you build resilience and cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs or other behaviors. negatives which ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help strengthen your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.
You don’t have to spend hours in your busy day to reap the full benefits of exercise on physical and mental health. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week is enough. And even that can be broken down into two 15-minute workouts, or even 10-minute workouts if that’s easier.
If you aren’t already exercising, or if you aren’t exercising enough to meet these guidelines, consider doing so. But take your shoes off right away!
The race is back! Locally we have the Spooky Sprint 5K, a fun run and costume contest at Catawba College on Halloween afternoon on October 31st. Check it out and five other upcoming 2021 events at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org.