Exercising and Mental Health
We all know that exercise is good for us. It’s obvious.
But did you know how good it really is for your mental health? This is a subject and topic that has really been brought to the surface through several studies conducted over the last 5 or so years, which has shown overwhelmingly positive correlations between exercise and mental health.
One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year.
And Australia has noticed, through its progressive advocacy to speak up about mental health, voiced predominately from the mainstream media and large sporting organisations, a big advocate being the AFL (Australian Football League) and growing organisations that support mental health, such as Beyond Blue and Reach Out.
The US Department of Health and Human Services in 1999 defined mental health as “a state of successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt and change and to cope with adversity” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1999, p.4)
So how does exercise facilitate these areas? Let’s work from the bottom.
“The ability to change and cope with adversity”- a study conducted by the American Psychological Association published a study in 2014 reported that people generally feel less stress following bouts of exercise, as opposed to being sedentary (American Psychological Association 2014) Exercise itself is a stressor yet relieves itself from the reactivity of psychological stressors. The irony is real.
Smaller reactivity to stress induced adversity showed greater results in working around and overcoming life problems, as well as achieving positive outcomes in a smaller time frame.
“A state of successful performance of mental function”
Let’s look at this specifically. Cognitive improvement has been a key outcome of many studies undertaken surrounding weight training. O’Connor, Herring and Carvalho (2010) propose that there is a network of neurophysiological adaptions that occur when resistance training is engaged, both indirectly and directly effecting our mental processes. Such ‘mental processes’ include:
Improved executive control
May lessen depression
Can greatly lessen chronic fatigue
Improved quality of sleep
This list of benefits shows a phenomenal range of benefits that one experiences from weightlifting, this data alone should be convincing enough to get yourself in the gym!
So, there you have it-mental health and exercise– and everything in-between.
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