The Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

Many people shy away from regular exercise because they don’t like to sweat, don’t want to invest time or money, or want to avoid the soreness and tiredness you feel when you work out. However, exercise is crucial for more than just physical fitness, though it plays a big part in that as well. Exercise doesn’t have to be gym time, and it has many benefits besides keeping you in shape, especially on your mental health. Ultimately, love it or hate it, exercise has an immense impact on your overall health and can be very beneficial to both the body and mind.

What Counts as Exercise?

Exercise is the consistent movement of the body. This means that, yes, your walk to and from class or the office is a form of moderate exercise. Though walking from the fridge to the television may not be quite the same, most people do some moderate exercise to complete day-to-day tasks.

The more common exercises people think of are the ones that require equipment or time and energy. For example, aerobic exercises such as running, swimming, biking, walking, boxing, and dancing are all exercises that get your heart pumping. These help boost your mood and your confidence as you gain strength and feel the physical benefits of aerobic exercise.

If aerobic exercise isn’t for you, there are others that are helpful and still allow you to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Weightlifting is great for gaining strength, confidence, and enjoying the mental health benefits of exercise. Other good forms of exercise can include horseback riding, yoga, playing a school sport, workout classes, or a job that requires some physical labor.

How Does Exercise Affect the Brain?

Exercise affects the brain in many ways, but exercise ultimately makes you feel happier. Studies show that exercise for mental health may be more crucial than you think. Due to the prevalence of sedentary lifestyles, many people aren’t exercising as much as people used to. This has led to an increase in health disorders in recent years like obesity, diabetes, and even mental health disorders from lacking the benefits of exercise.

As you exercise, your increased heart rate allows for more blood to flow to the brain, and excites the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is connected to many parts of the brain and will allow for the limbic system (which regulates emotions and mood) to stabilize, serotonin (which is your brain’s natural happy chemical) levels to increase, the amygdala (which controls anxiety and fear response) to calm, and the hippocampus (which is important for memories, mood, and motivation) to stimulate. All these positive changes happening at once allow you to feel these benefits during and after exercise. Even if you get tired during exercise and maybe don’t like the feeling of being sweaty or physically exhausted, getting a workout of some kind is a huge accomplishment and will help boost your mood.

What Can Exercise Help With?

Exercise can help with many physical ailments. As exercise helps the heart, lungs, and muscles function more strongly, it may also help mitigate diseases like heart conditions and diabetes. Regular exercise can also increase your stamina and energy levels. It also helps alleviate many mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and other mental health disorders. For those who have suffered trauma or PTSD, exercise can help burn away some of that pent-up nervous energy that can lead to a panic or anxiety attack.

Many people who exercise regularly feel improved self-esteem from exercise’s effect on their body and mind. Exercise can help you feel healthier overall, and increased self-esteem can only help other areas of your life. Exercise can also help with social skills and connections. The social aspect of exercise is very important and many people who participate in exercise do so with others. Many positive interactions can be born from group exercises, such as trust, accountability, and encouragement.

What Are the Best Exercises for Teens?

Teens should exercise for their health, and it doesn’t have to be strenuous unless the teen is training for something like a sport or other physical event. Many teens participate in sports as a form of exercise and as a form of social connectivity. Teens may also participate in classes that focus on exercises, like dance, yoga, pilates, or walking groups.

Teens with a love for animals may benefit from animal work, like dog walking, horseback riding, or caring for animals at a shelter or on a farm. Many teens can make money and get exercise through labor-intensive jobs, but by no means are labor-intensive jobs required for exercise. Exercise can be on your own time, and you get to choose how you move. As you create your exercise routine, find something you enjoy that you can stick with to reap those benefits as often as you can.

Exercise is a great way for teens to establish a routine, use physical activity as part of treatment, and enjoy the positive effects of physical movement. Sometimes the improved mood and self-esteem from exercise’s effects on the body can help teens stay in shape, mentally and physically. For teens with mental health concerns relating to trauma and attachment issues, that boost in self-esteem can be crucial to their recovery. At Havenwood Academy, we offer teen girls the opportunity to exercise through classes, dancing, working with animals, rock climbing, and more. Our professional and experienced staff understand that movement and even moderate exercise is crucial for teens’ mental, physical, and emotional health. Our Utah facility is a long-term residential treatment center offering a holistic approach with research-based therapies to help your daughter through her trauma and attachment issues. If your daughter needs healing from trauma or other mental health issues, call Havenwood Academy at (435) 586-2500 today.


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