Exercise and Mental Health
It’s well known that exercise can help reduce your risk for and treat physical diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. But, have you considered the fact that exercise is also protective for mental health and a treatment for mental illness?
Exercise of any type stimulates the release of endorphins and enkephalins, which are peptide hormones that activate opiate receptors. This causes a reduction in pain and feelings of euphoria, otherwise known as bliss! Not only this, but exercise also directly stimulates the brain in other ways, leading to actual brain growth (through increased blood supply and increased healthy hormones), particularly in the hippocampus. These effects have mimicked those of antidepressants, and they lead to greater “flexibility” of thought, thus reducing symptoms of mental illness.
Four weeks of 3x 60 minute sessions is an ideal minimum for seeing treatment of mental illness. However, your brain begins upregulating the sensitivity of dopamine receptors after just small increases of exercise; this means the more you exercise, the more rewarding it will begin to feel!