The Value of Exercise on Mental Health

Written by Dr. Lee Hildebrand
people running on beach

With the advent of warm weather, come further opportunities to embrace an active lifestyle. Many in cold climates find the winter to be taxing on their mood and mental health. Research has shown physical activity and exercise to be catalysts toward improved mood and a feeling of well-being.

Physically, regular activity and exercise bring about enhancements in bone density, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, weight regulation, and healthy blood pressure.  Psychologically, regular activity and exercise can assist in keeping your thinking and concentration sharp, as well as enhancements in your mood. Research has shown that participating in a mix of aerobic and resistance training activities 3 to 5 times per week for at least 30 minutes can lead to noticeable results.

In fact, studies have found exercise to be as effective in the long term treatment of depression as antidepressant medications. Experts have demonstrated that exercise facilitates the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins have been shown to enhance natural immunity and reduce the sensation of pain. In addition, it is theorized that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which can have a direct impact on one's mood.

It is important to consult with your physician prior to starting a new exercise routine. In terms of motivation, assess the factors that contribute most to getting started and follow through. Some may find great benefit in hiring a personal trainer or joining an exercise class. Others may find individual exercise most appealing and respond well to individualized goals. Choose a time of day that gives the highest likelihood for consistency. Many claim that mornings are a "great way to start the day." Others may find more opportunities in midday or evening times. Many fitness experts recommend varying the types of exercise activities to prevent boredom and to enhance physical creativity. Overall, take advantage of exercise and activity during the warm spring and summer months. The benefits can bring inspiration to continue with a plan throughout the year.