The effects of exercise on mental health.
When we look at exercise, we often look through the limited scope of exercise attending to physical changes only. But the benefits far exceed just physical boundaries. It’s not just to look good, it’s not just to increase athletic endeavours, it’s not just something done out of routine for the monotonous sport of exercise; it’s to outweigh the cost of contemporary metabolic syndrome, create a leverage against mental illness, along with all implementing discipline against lifestyle choices. Exercise simply continues to be under-appreciated and undermined as the gold standard to preventative medicine and preventative intervention.
The influence of exercise includes:
- Preventing anxiety and depression
- Improving blood flow to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which manages the adaptive responses to stress. This optimises process in these key structures:
- The limbic system, which controls motivation and mood
- The amygdala, which generates fear in response to stress
- The hippocampus, which plays an important part in memory formation as well as in mood and motivation.
- Increases mental health through social, physical and mental distraction
- Increases memory and reduces the formation of tao proteins in patients with Alzheimer’s.
- Increases self esteem and cognitive function
- Secondary co-morbidities such as obesity that is associated to bipolar and schizophrenia are addressed through exercise
- Finally the generic health benefits such as: improves sleep, better sexual drive, endurance, energy and stamina, alertness, decreased tiredness, weight reduction and reduced cholesterol are gained
Although there is a statistically significant correlation between physical activity and mental health (rather than a understanding of pathophysiological dynamics), the irony is that we are often crippled and stalled when it comes to engaging in exercise. Sometimes we like to rely on pharmacological interventions or place primacy on other passive health services. While these are important we want to remind you that the scope of treatment is not just limited to these fields. Nor is there one service that trumps another, but an integrated and concurrent participation of all exercise and other interventions will improve our mental health best.
“The evidence concerning mental health effects is extensive, but still growing. Associations are clear, but more needs to be known about clinical effectiveness for some population groups and conditions”