Movement for the Mind: How Exercise Impacts our Mental Health

“All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” 
― Martha Graham (American dancer)

Get Moving in 2019

Here we are at the end of another year, and the time has come when many people reflect on the past and make plans for a healthier or happier future. If your New Year’s resolution includes getting moving with an exercise plan, research suggests that your physical and your mental health will benefit!

Your Brain on Exercise

If you have ever experienced sadness or depression, you have probably also noticed that going for a walk or getting some exercise helps lift your spirits. Did you know that there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon? 

According to research, exercising triggers the release of chemicals called endorphins into your body. Endorphins not only interact with receptors in your brain to reduce your body’s perception of pain, but also contribute to a mental “euphoria” or “runner’s high” sensation, resulting in an uplifted mood and an enhanced sense of overall well-being.1 Exercise also increases blood flow and neuronal activity in certain areas of the brain including the hippocampus, the area of the brain directly related to memory, emotional regulation and learning.2

Enhancing our physique can be one powerful motivator for committing to regular exercise in the New Year, which, in turn, can boost self-confidence. In addition to relieving stress and producing feelings of euphoria, regular movement can raise levels of self-confidence, according to some studies. 3

Mind-Body Medicine

When you hear the word “mind-body medicine”, you might immediately think of sweaty yoga studios or groups of people practicing tai chi in the park. If you are not a yoga aficionado or a martial artist, have no fear! As you can see from the data above, all exercise is, in essence, beneficial for the mind and body. If you love running, commit to jogging three times a week. If you are a swimmer or a dancer, try to hit the pools or the dance studio more often in 2019.

When we consider the body and mind as integrated, holistic entities, it is easy to see how physical exercise can have a profound impact on mental health. In a recent article published in Psychology Today, the author writes, In fact, increasingly robust evidence suggests that exercise is not only necessary for the maintenance of good mental health, but it can be used to treat even chronic mental illness.”4

The moral of the story? Exercise in ways that make you happy, and be prepared to reap the physical and mental benefits in 2019!

Happy New Year!

 

 

1https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

2https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

3https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

4https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1