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What Is the Connection Between Exercise and Mental Health?

It can be easy to feel blue or somewhat down with increased stressors in the world today. Between the news headlines, inflation, and increased costs of all necessities, it could make anyone feel slightly depressed. If you don’t have strong family or social support, it can be extra tough. Staying healthy or losing weight may be at the bottom of your priority list right now, but let’s talk about the connection between exercise and mental health.

The Magic Pill

It’s no secret that anxiety and depression rates are increasing among children, teens, and adults. This increase may have started with the pandemic, but we are still seeing the lingering effects today. Isolation, loneliness, and anxiety have led to an even more sedentary lifestyle than before Covid. With that comes lethargy, weight gain, sadness, depression, and even thoughts of suicide.*

There is, however, an important, natural tool for combating depression and anxiety. 

It’s the E word, of course: exercise, the magic pill. 

Not only does exercise help us remain physically healthy, but it also contributes to our overall well-being.

How Exercise Changes Everything

In addition to counseling, medication, and other treatment options, physical activity can also be a useful strategy to improve your mental health. 

Exercise can help improve:

  • Sleep
  • Endurance
  • Stress levels
  • Mood
  • Energy levels
  • Weight loss
  • Mental alertness

It also reduces cholesterol and improves cardiovascular health and fitness.

You don’t have to spend hours in a gym to get results. Try any form of aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, gardening, or dancing. Once you’ve discovered something you enjoy, make an effort to set aside time to do one of these activities at least three times per week.

How Does Exercise Improve Health?

Exercise increases blood circulation to the brain to enhance your mental health as much as your physical health.

Exercise benefits your mental health in the following ways:

  • The level of chemicals in the brain like serotonin, stress hormones, and endorphins change when you exercise.
  • Sleeping better helps you manage your mood.
  • Exercise can improve your sense of control, ability to cope, and improve self esteem.
  • Exercise distracts you from negative thoughts.
  • It provides the opportunity to get social support when you exercise with others. 
  • It’s an outlet for frustrations.

Talk with your primary care provider or a weight loss surgeon at Dignity Health Medical Group in Chandler and Gilbert, AZ before starting any exercise program.

*If you are having suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to call or text 988 – the 24/7 free suicide and crisis lifeline.

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