Exercise and mental health, how does the physical work impact our mental wellbeing? We explored the mind body connection previously, but now lets check out how our physical movement can positively impact our mental health, and the interconnectedness of mental and physical health overall. Aerobic exercises are said to have improvements on our mood due to the increased blood circulation to the brain. Essentially, when we move, we get our blood pumping thus increasing the blood circulation to the brain. When our blood gets moving, there is increased communication with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA. The HPA axis is an intricate system within our brain and adrenal glands. Long story short, the activation of the HPA axis creates a response in our system that works to reduce stressors, thus lessoning our anxiety and depression.

While focusing on the physiological reaction to exercise is important, looking at the overall beneficial impact of exercise is just as important. Exercise creates a distraction from stressors, allows for the deep breathing and mind/body connection, increases personal self-efficacy, and supports with self-value. Creation of positive habits is always beneficial for mental health. Exercise creates structure and routine, can increase social interactions depending on your workout style, while also increasing your ability to develop more positive habits throughout your week. 

Exercise is beneficial for people who suffer through most mental health challenges; anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar, ect. Exercise can combat some of the more negative side effects from medication, as well as works to support autonomous tasks for someone who might be feeling out of control of their mind/body. Being able to go on three 30-minute walks each week is said to increase fitness levels, increase energy levels, reduce blood pressure. While it is suggested to walk 30 minutes per day, it has been shown that 10 minute walks can be just as effective. Creating a personal routine, with the support of a medical professional, that works for you and your body, can have amazing results not only physically but mentally as well.

Overall, exercise will not just help with the physical and mental concerns, but also will support improvement in sleep schedules, increased endurance, stress relief, increase in positive mood, increased energy and stamina, supporting to reach your personal healthy weight (which is different for everyone), while also supporting to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. No one is alone in this journey, but there are a lot of things you can do for yourself. If you are suffering with your mental health, or physical health, speak with a provider today to support in creating an appropriate workout routine that works for your body. While you are working on your fitness journey, don’t forget that exercise in conjunction with mental health counseling is a win-win. Your mental health counselor can support you in working on tools to create positive habits, support you in process trauma and stress, and work to encourage you to make those positive healthful changes in your life.