Importance of Exercise for Mental Health

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Do you wake up feeling exhausted, groggy and demotivated every morning, despite not doing any physical work the day before? This paper will summarize five sources which prove the thesis statement of this paper, which is that exercising increases a person’s overall mental well-being. These sources will be analyzed and compared to one another to see which ways they agree and which ways they disagree with one another.

The first four sources that will be used will be Let’s Get Physical by the Mental Health Foundation, How simply moving benefits your mental health by published by Harvard Health Foundation, Exercise for Mental Health by PubMed Central, and lastly, The Exercise Effect by the American Psychological Association. The next article that will be used will be the college textbook Psychology by Openstax.

The ability to exercise in order to increase a person’s mental well-being is so valuable because it provide a natural, helpful solution to a smorgasbord of issues, such as a way to fight depression among other disorders, motivation to self-enforce a more positive lifestyle, a healthy coping method for stress, and exercising itself can be taken as a hobby, which contains its own set of mental benefits. There are countless things exercising brings to the table when it comes to increasing people’s overall mental well-being.

The first source being analyzed is a publication by the Mental Health Foundation, titled Let’s Get Physical: The impact of physical activity on wellbeing. The publication opens up by defining the well-being as factors like and individual’s ability to develop their potential, work productivity, creativity, forms of relationships built (Mental Health Foundation). It also includes aspects such as personal satisfaction, having a sense of purpose, confidence and optimism. It defines exercise as any physical activity that requires a physical energy spent. The publication then goes on to reference numerous case studies and findings. There are far too many to state in this paper, but a handful will be discussed.

The first study talks about the positive effects exercising has on a person’s mood. It refers to a research which showed that there is an approximately twenty to thirty percent lower risk for depression and dementia, as well as an increase in self-esteem for adults who participate in daily physical activity. Next, it talks about how stress levels have risen significantly in recent years across the UK and that people who exercised during those years were in better overall mental states. From this, they move on to the relationship between self-esteem, depression and physical activity, showing how physical activity tends to have self-esteem boosting effects and how it synchronized well with people whose depression had not

remitted after a course of antidepressant medication. Lastly, it goes on to cover how exercise positively impacts people of various disorders, such as anxiety, dementia, and severe mental health problems in general. It summarizes the publication by talking about how physical activity impacts well-being. It does so by stating that the relationship between physical activity and mental health is multifaceted, an amalgamation of different parts interacting, and that they interact at a physiological level, a social level and a psychological level. For example, there are physiological adaptations of chemicals in the brain, benefits from the improvements in sleep, an increased amount of social interactions, and so on. This publication was thoroughly cited and made clear for users to easily access and read.

The next source will be How simply moving benefits your mental health. This was an article published by Harvard Health Publishing, written by Srini Pillay, MD. It starts off by stating that recent studies have shown that the connection between your brain and your body is simply a brain-to-body interaction by a two-way street, and so physical movement can affect your brain (Pillay). It states that regular aerobic exercise, which is exercise that requires free oxygen, can reduce anxiety by making your brain’s acute stress response system less reactive to sudden stress. Anxious people who are exposed to “fight or flight” situations can develop a tolerance for such the symptom which come with it.

Aerobic exercises also tend to reduce many depressive symptoms, and that exercising has been proven to be as effective as medication and psychotherapy. This claim is referenced to a robust research done by the National Institutes of Health. It references another study which resulted in exercising briefly improved symptoms of people with ADHD. The article circles back to depression by stating that meditative movement, such as tai chi, certain forms of yoga, and Qigong, have been shown to lessen the severity of some symptoms of depression. The article moves onto the next section, talking about how a recent study found that when a person attempts to move in synchrony with someone else, it tends to improve their self-esteem.

In this study, participants interacted with another person via a video link, which they thought to be live. The person in the video performed a standard exercise, that being an arm curls, while the participants watched and then imitated the movement. During some of the phases, the participants had to coordinate their movements with the person in the video link whereas during other phases, they had to deliberately fail to coordinate their movements. Between each phase, the participants filled out a mood report, which also included reporting on how close they felt to the other person.

The results showed that during the coordinated phases, the participants felt higher amounts of self-esteem compared to the unsynchronized phases. Pillay wraps up the article by restating its thesis and suggesting readers to engage in more synchronized exercises in order to improve on the reader’s mental health, such as walking with a partner or participating in a yoga gym group workout.

The third source to be looked at will be Exercise for Mental Health by PubMed Central. This article approaches the topic in a very straightforward manner, by starting with the growing health issue of today’s society (Sharma A). It states that exercise, a lifestyle modification, could be a cost-efficient method to improve overall quality of life for people with mental illnesses, as the relaxed lifestyle and side effects of medications open them up to numerous possible illnesses, such as diabetes or CVD.

It states that the benefits of exercise are not recognized or appreciated enough by patients and tends to get neglected, despite them being excellent therapeutic tools. They claim aerobic exercises tend to reduce depression and anxiety, and that these improvements are thought to be caused by the extra blood flow and circulation to the brain and effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal.

Other aspects of exercising which are thought to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression are the increase in self-efficacy, social interactions and the all-together distraction from negative thoughts while exercising. It points out that exercise is especially beneficial for patients with schizophrenia, as they are susceptible to weight gain due to their antipsychotic medications, especially with second generation antipsychotics.

The fourth source, The exercise effect by the American Psychological Association, uses a two pronged approach to the benefits of exercise on mental health and why psychologists ought to utilize exercising as part of their treatment arsenal. The first approach is the mood enhancing effects exercise has on people (Weir). It reports that there is epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people, and that evidence also comes from experimental studies. In the experimental studies, Blumenthal PhD, of Duke University, had explored mood-exercise connection through a series of randomized controlled trials.

The results of his study were profound. He found that exercise, for patients with major depressive disorder, was generally comparable to antidepressants. This study was followed up after a year and the results persisted. The second part of the article approaches fight-or-flight. It references two people, Jasper Smits, PhD, and Otto, a co-director at Southern Methodist University and their research of the effects of exercise on anxiety. The results of their research showed that people who experienced two weeks of an exercise program had tremendous improvements in their anxiety sensitivity when compared to the control group. This shows that exercise is almost like a form of exposure therapy.

Lastly, the college textbook Psychology will be used to top off the sources. This book does not go into depth when talking about the effects of exercise on a person’s mind. It mentions it briefly several times throughout the book (Openstax College). For instance, under the section How to Study Effectively it suggests physical activity is healthy for one’s mind, and references two studies which back up the claim. The first being that aerobic exercises are beneficial for memory, and the second that aerobic exercises promote neurogenesis which plays a large role in learning and memory.

The positive effects of physical exercising is mentioned in another part of the book, under the unit Stress in a subcategory Stress Reduction Techniques. It claims that . There is a large amount of evidence that people who are physically fit are more resistant to the negative effects of stress and recover quicker. It mentions a study where over five hundred Swiss police officers were reported to have indirectly proportional relations between physical fitness and stress resistance and it’s problems.

This paper is meant to show and prove to the reader how exercising and physical health have a positive impact on the mental state of the brain. Even when putting aside the overwhelming amount of physical benefits from exercise, the mental benefits alone are able to fend for themselves. The mental benefits from exercising are useful for every person, not only people suffering from disorders or high amounts of stress. Exercising allows for an overall better well-being and quality of life, enabling a longer, happier, better functioning life.


Cite this paper

Importance of Exercise for Mental Health. (2021, Mar 17). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/importance-of-exercise-for-mental-health/

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