Guest blog by Andra Hughes, Wellness Coordinator for AON and the Gardens of Peterborough
Robert H Butler said, “If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.” I must say, I 100% agree!
Among many many other health benefits, exercise has a profound impact on how we feel and our mental health. Here is the reason we all need to exercise, for the sake of our mental health.
Before we go any further let me offer my definition of what exercise is. As one of my favourite fitness instructor colleagues says, “as long as your arms and legs are moving, you are doing fitness!”
Exercise means something different to everyone. For some, exercise may be climbing an extra set of stairs, or walking two laps around the kitchen before leaving the room, and for others exercise may be running a marathon or completing a kick boxing class. I like to define exercise as “any type of purposeful movement, above and beyond the movement you need to do to complete your activities of daily living”. Basically, carrying groceries to your car isn’t exercise because you need to do it anyway, but doing a few squats while you are carrying those groceries is exercise.
People who exercise regularly tend to do so for many reasons. To reduce their waist line, improve sleeping and energy levels, improve longevity, improve their overall health or improve digestion, to name a few. But everyone will agree, that people who exercise regularly do so because it gives them a sense of well-being.
Science will back that up too! Many studies have shown that exercise can help treat mild to moderate depression, as effectively as medication, and continuing with that exercise regime can prevent relapses.
Exercise is an effective way to beat the ‘stress cycle’. While your body is releasing endorphins post work out, these feel good hormones are combating cortisol — the hormone that is released when we are stressed — leaving you less stressed. Exercising can also act as an effective way to reduce the symptoms of A.D.H.D.. During and after exercise you body releases more dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin naturally. Medications such as Ritalin act the same way, helping you focus, concentrate and remember better. Exercise is an excellent anti-anxiety treatment as well due to the body releasing those ‘feel good’ endorphins.
Studies have also shown us that exercise can aid in the recovery and management of PTSD. Exercise can help your nervous system become unstuck and move out of some of the immobilization stress responses that are characteristic of PTSD.
We know what we feel, we feel good after we exercise. Science will explain why, but improving our mental health depends in part on moving our bodies, no matter what that looks like. So lace up, suit up, peddle up, just get up, for the sake of your mental health!