Submitted by CAPITAL ORTHO
4 ways exercise improves your mental health
It’s no secret that inactivity can create a vicious cycle in one’s life. While leading a sedentary lifestyle will undoubtedly have a negative effect on your physical health, it can also have a negative effect on your mental health.
“Often there is a direct correlation between physical and mental health. As an orthopedist, we deal directly with many of these aspects of our patients’ well-being,” said Dr. Tal Hendrix, an orthopedic surgeon at Capital Ortho who specializes in sports medicine and shoulder reconstruction.
“Many times, regular exercise is key not only to reducing cardiovascular risks, building strong bones and muscles, and reducing age-related injuries, but also for mental health. Regular exercise is a great way to relieve stress (and) anxiety and help battle depression.”
How can exercise boost your mental health?
◼︎ Releasing feel-good chemicals in your brain
Endorphins are one of many neuro-transmitters released when you exercise. Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. All of these chemicals play an important role in regulating your mood.
◼︎ Creating a distraction
When you put energy into moving your body, it relaxes your mind and allows you to focus on something other than negative thoughts or worries that could be feeding your depression or anxiety.
◼︎ Gaining confidence
Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost self-confidence and create a sense of accomplishment. Regular exercise can also make you feel better about your physical appearance.
◼︎ Generating more social interaction
Physical activity will force you out of your comfort zone and into social situations that you might typically try to avoid. Whether it’s saying hello to a neighbor while walking the dog, or meeting new friends in an exercise class, connecting with others will improve your mood.
Chances are, you are already aware of the many benefits of exercise but are wondering where to start and, more importantly, how to stay motivated. Here are some tips:
◼︎ Identify what you enjoy doing.
For some, it may be a walk or run around the neighborhood. For others, you might prefer meeting up with friends at a gym or exercise class. Think outside the box, too! Playing basketball in the driveway or riding bikes with your children is great exercise and a great way to create fun family memories and instill healthy physical habits in your children. Find what you enjoy doing, and begin incorporating that into your daily routine. You’re much more likely to stick with it if it makes you smile.
◼︎ Set attainable goals.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Think about realistic goals you would like to achieve. That will look different for each person. A goal for you may be to walk for 30 minutes, three days a week. Others may decide to take up a new sport or train for a 5K.
◼︎ Don’t think of exercise as a chore.
If physical activity is simply another to-do on your already long to-do list, it’s unlikely that you will want to stick with it. Try thinking of exercise as a useful tool that can help improve your mood and boost your energy.
◼︎ Consider it a lifestyle change.
When you find what you enjoy doing and are realistic about your goals, be prepared for setbacks along the way. Life gets busy and the best intentions sometimes get interrupted, so if you miss several days or get off track, it’s okay to pick right back up where you left off. Just keep moving!
In addition to the physical benefits of regular exercise, it can also create short-term and long-term psychological benefits like improving your mental health, improving your mood, and reducing anxiety. Even when exercise is the last thing you feel like doing, making time to move a little more each day can turn into a beneficial habit in more ways than one!
Dr. Tal Hendrix is a sports medicine and shoulder reconstruction specialist at Capital Ortho.