We all know that physical exercise is good for your body. But it can play a really important role in mental recovery too.
When you exercise feel-good endorphins are released into your brain. This improves your mood. At the same time, levels of adrenaline and cortisol (which cause stress) are reduced. This combination of mental changes brought on by physical exercise can really improve your mental health.
Here are seven more ways physical exercises are good for your mental recovery:
When you’re engaged in physical activity that requires concentration, you don’t have the head space to think of anything else. Negative or destructive thought patterns have to move aside so you can focus on the physical task at hand. Pilates and yoga are both great low-impact forms of exercise that demand your full concentration. You focus your mind on your breathing and on individual parts of your body, rather than your worries or stresses.
Improved Self Esteem
When you exercise regularly your fitness level will start to rise and you may lose some weight. You could advance from a short jog around the block to completing a 10k run. Seeing the progress you make can give you a real self-esteem boost. Your sense of achievement will help to lift your mood and feel more confident in yourself.
If your mental state makes it difficult for you to concentrate on a particular task, exercise can help here too. The endorphins released when you exercise don’t just improve your mood. They also help you to concentrate and improve your cognitive ability. By working on your physical health you make your mind sharper and quicker.
Better Social Connections
Being around other people and forming friendships is good for your mental health. Getting involved with a sports team or just regularly attending an exercise class means you’ll be socialising with a new group of people. These social connections can really improve your emotional and mental wellbeing.
Doing physical exercise during the day increases your chances of a good night’s sleep. And a good night’s sleep helps you better manage your emotional state the following day. You’ll have more energy, better concentration and improved memory. You’re also less likely to have unhealthy food cravings, which brings with it a whole other set of physical and psychological benefits.
If you’re currently working towards mental recovery, you may experience times when you lack energy. Even though it’s probably the last thing you feel like doing, getting out and doing some exercise could be the answer. When you exercise your body adapts to increased activity levels and you get an energy boost that helps to stave off fatigue. Tiring your body out actually gives you improved energy in the long run.
Less Tension and Stress
Any exercise you do helps to relieve tension and stress in the body. Muscles and joints that have become stiff from lack of activity are encouraged to stretch and move. And because your mind and body are so closely linked, the release of tension in your body is mirrored by a release of tension in your mind. Just think, when you hold your body in a tense position, you start to feel stressed. Do the opposite and you’ll become calmer and more relaxed in mind as well as body.
Regular exercise – be it a football match, a dance class or a pilates session – will help you to improve both your physical and mental health. Even a 15 minute jog every day could do the trick. When you work on your fitness you’re sure to see benefits in all areas of your health and wellbeing.
James Norwick is a sports enthusiast, fitness lover and a healthy lifestyle promoter. He is also a blogger and a part of the team behind Bend + Mend – Physiotherapy and Pilates Studio.