Benefits of Exercise for Mental Wellbeing

Written by: Nick Agius (Accredited Exercise Physiologist)

There are many reasons why people will first decide to join a gym.  Some people set the goal to increase strength, improve cardiovascular fitness, maybe for rehabilitation or just simply to maintain physical health for healthy ageing.

However, it is not often that individuals will sign up for a gym membership or seek an Exercise Physiologist or Personal Trainer for exercise as a tool to improve their mental wellbeing.

Improving mental health is commonly thrown in as an added benefit of exercise, where for many people it may actually be their number one priority.

It is especially important to acknowledge this given the current COVID19 pandemic, where many people are experiencing literal social isolation; which can impact negatively on one’s mental health.

In a time where the days seem to blend into one, and productivity for some people has sharply declined, regular exercise can have numerous benefits for your mental health.  These benefits include:

  • Improve energy
    • Exercise increases the blood flow and delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to the brain. This helps to increase ‘neurogenesis’. Neurogenesis is a process where new brain cells are created, which helps to improve brain functioning and performance.
    • Exercise also helps to strengthen and grow the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. Therefore, regular exercise will help to keep your brain strong and fresh, and allow it to work at a higher capacity than it would for someone that is physically inactive.
  • Improved confidence
    • The physical benefits of exercise such as weight loss, increased muscle tone, strength, aerobic fitness, and endurance all help to boost self-esteem. Being more comfortable when looking in the mirror and being able to complete that long walk to the shops that you were once unable to will help to improve your personal well-being.
  • Improve sleep
    • Exercise can help to improve your sleep quality and increase your total sleep. Regular exercise routines are important to allow you to expend energy so you can feel more tired by the time you are ready for bed.
  • Reduce stress
    • Exercise has been proven to reduce fatigue and improve your concentration and alertness. Additionally, using mind-body exercise such as yoga will help to reduce cortisol levels and blood pressure, helping to improve your mood.
  • Improve overall mood
    • exercise helps to release endorphins and enkephalins which are the body’s ‘feel good’ hormones. The positive feelings and thoughts that arise from exercise can help you to avoid damaging self-talk and negative contemplations.
  • Social bonding
    • Friends or family are particularly important to those with mental illnesses for the social support they can provide. Spending time together in a more stress free environment such as in a park, gym or swimming pool can help to grow and develop relationships beyond the normal environment that you are used to seeing that person in (e.g. your house or in the office).
  • Reduce depression, anxiety & other health complications
    • Exercise also has many benefits beyond the short term mental health impacts. Studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce the likelihood of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and even other cognitive impairment conditions such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia ADHD, PTSD and other trauma.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can engage in regular physical activity during the Covid19 lock-down to maintain or improve your mental wellbeing, come in and speak to one of our Exercise Physiologists or Personal Trainers at Inspire Fitness for Wellbeing, or call us on 9857 3007.