Active-Steps-Improving-Mental-Wellbeing-with-Exercise

Active Steps: Improving Mental Wellbeing with Exercise

Depression is increasingly becoming a common problem for many individuals. It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of depression – because there are so many possible triggers – and even more difficult to find the right coping mechanisms. However, natural coping mechanisms such as physical activity may act as a great natural antidepressant for some people. Physical activity is not only known for improving physical health, but also known for improving mental health. Making an effort to squeeze exercise into your daily routine can increase energy and improve overall mental wellbeing!

Energy Boost: By doing a simple workout such as biking, walking, running, or weight lifting, you can gain more energy during the day and work more efficiently. Breaking a sweat can increase your heart rate and ultimately increase oxygen levels in your brain!

Mood Enhancer: Physical activity has been proven to decrease depression through mood enhancement by producing higher levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that stimulates activity signals in the brain. It allows you to feel great by producing higher endorphin levels and decreasing a stress-producing hormone known as cortisol. With an increase in serotonin levels, you may find improved:
- Sleeping patterns
- Appetite
- Energy levels
- Work efficiency
- Memory
- Social interaction

Overcoming Obstacles: Since depression may prevent you from feeling motivated to start new habits, waking up early or getting out of bed, it may take time to initiate a permanent change in your daily routine. Before adding physical activity, it is important to visit your physician to evaluate your overall health by seeking therapy, starting antidepressants, if needed; and establishing the right and safe physical activity levels.

Taking Little Steps: Although becoming completely committed to incorporating physical activity to your daily routine may be difficult at first, give yourself time to get adjusted by making small incremental changes. There will be days where you feel down and skip a workout, but that’s okay, those days will pass and you can get right back on track the following days.

Workout Buddy: Finding the right person to join your workout can be beneficial in helping you achieve your physical activity goals. A workout buddy can encourage you to stay committed to incorporating physical activity into your life and be a great physical and emotional support to improve mental wellbeing.

It is important to recognize how physical and mental wellbeing are related. Making physical activity a priority can aid in the prevention of chronic diseases and decrease the impact of stress on the body. By improving our ability to manage the impact of stress on our body, we may also improve our overall mental wellbeing.

By Amira Moujir, Dietetic Intern at the Tulane PRC
December 2016

(Photo courtesy of CDC PRC Program)

(Active Steps is a recurring feature that appears regularly in the Tulane PRC’s e-newsletters and covers fitness and physical activity tips. If you have any suggestions for Active Steps topics, please contact Naomi Englar at nking2@tulane.edu or 504-988-7410.)

Topics:   physical activity , walking , running , biking

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