In short, the answer is yes, exercise absolutely improves mental health.
This exercise does not have to mean serious heart-pumping, limbs aching sort of exercise, but can include aerobic exercises such as light jogging, swimming, cycling, walking and even gardening. All of these have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and alleviates feelings of low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Those who exercise regularly will feel increased energy levels during the day, better sleep at night, heightened awareness of senses and moods, more relaxed and positive and a deep impact on their mental health. As per research done by Harvard’s School of Public Health, running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Exercise promotes changes in the brain including reduced inflammation, neural growth and releases endorphins.
Exercise also can be a distraction to the very hard math problem that just cannot be solved or a densely complicated related text for English class. It allows for quiet time to break the cycle of unproductivity or negative thoughts of giving up. For students feeling stressed, burnt-out or unmotivated, give exercising a fair go! Starting can be tough and giving up for sure seems like a very appealing option at times.
Here are four tips for pushing through with a regular exercise routine:
- Ask yourself “why am I doing this?” You are more likely to continue with an activity if it holds value and important in your life. Finding the reason for exercising that resonates with you will be a main source of motivation to get you back on track!
- Start small. Setting small goals and slowly build as you feel more confident and motivated by your skills and accomplishments!
- Do something you enjoy. Picking an exercise that’s enjoyable shows a higher chance of you to continue with it. Rather than dreading it, you’ll be looking forward to exercising and will reap more rewards with a positive mindset.
- Set goals and monitor your progress. Each session is more purposeful when you’re moving with a purpose or goal. By tracking your progress, you will feel heightened senses of accomplishment, motivation and confidence as you tackle obstacles and smash personal bests!
Remember, the hardest part is starting. Don’t feel disheartened if your schedule for a particular week means you miss your exercise routine, pick it back up the next week and only look ahead!
By Katherine Bai, An Alchemy Tutor