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The Role of Exercise in Mental Health

role of exercise in mental health - Young sporty girl smiles on the background of friends athletes in the park. Health. Healthy lifestyle.

When you think about protecting your mental health, you may be focused on getting into therapy to talk about your struggles. You may know that a good movie that makes you laugh or a dinner out with friends who make you happy is good for your mental health. And it’s true–these are all fantastic ways to reduce stress and improve overall quality of life. We would like to remind you of another great tool that supports your mental health: exercise.

Consider an Example

Have you ever gone to the gym after a long day or went outside for a walk when feeling intense stress? After hitting that punching bag or wandering through the neighborhood, you come back home feeling better, calmer. You have some perspective. Exercise is not just a way to become physically fit. It also helps control stress hormones that could be causing your bad mood. It is one of many holistic approaches to mental health that can improve your overall well-being.

What Are the Benefits of Physical Activity for Mental Health?

Exercise affects the brain in several ways. It releases chemicals in the brain that help you feel good. When you work out, you are also burning through the stress hormones that are running through your body. In these ways, exercise can help your brain to work better. It may be hard to think of an intense workout as being enjoyable, but it may be one of the best ways for you to see improvement in the way you feel, think, and navigate your day.

What Can You Do to Get In Enough Exercise?

For those who may not have an active, exercise-filled schedule, the thought of incorporating a workout at a gym can feel overwhelming. Yet you can get exercise in a variety of ways, and it doesn’t have to be a burden when you consider the following tips. 

  • Find an Activity You Enjoy — If you don’t like to run, don’t run. Instead, find an activity you enjoy that also requires movement. This could be swimming, gardening, or walking. If you don’t want to lift weights, don’t. Instead, try yoga, or clean your home, or complete a home renovation project. When you find an activity you enjoy, you’ll benefit both your body and your mental health.
  • Download an App — Dozens of apps allow you to track your fitness goals. If you’re not so interested in the number of calories you burn, choose one of these recommended mental health and fitness apps that bring the two components together.
    • We Are CapableThe We Are Capable app aims to support your body’s fitness goals in a compassionate way. That is, it helps you to not be so hard on yourself. It also explores the impact that body image and emotional eating can have on your overall well-being.
    • AliveThe Alive app is another tool that helps to bring fitness and wellness together on the same path. You will certainly be able to get fit, but the goal here is to create the best version of yourself, not just physically but mentally.
    • Daily YogaYoga counts as exercise and can be one of the best forms for those who want to start slow. The Daily Yoga app, a new product, offers classes and tools to help you learn how to incorporate yoga into your day.

Incorporate Exercise Into Your Day

You may feel you don’t have time to spend exercising every day. Though you should always prioritize your health and mental well-being, time is precious. To help maximize your time, find ways throughout the day to incorporate some exercise.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Go for a walk with your dog after a long day.
  • Put on some music while you are washing dishes or doing laundry, and dance.
  • Park at the farthest point you can in every parking lot to get in more steps.

Know When to Get Help

When exercise isn’t offering the support you need, consider tapping into our resources at Willow Creek Behavioral Health. Let our team help you to find the best opportunities for improving your mental health. We offer a no-cost, confidential assessment to our clients. Learn more about our mental health services in Green Bay, WI by contacting us now.

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