Psychological Benefits Of Physical Activities On Mental Health

Posted: July 14, 2019

What has Physical Activity to do with Mental Health?

Recently I completed a certification course on Mental Health from Alison Education and it gave me very valuable insights on mental illness and the importance of well-being. 

We often take our health for granted and it is only when an alarming situation shows up we realize the importance of the time we DID not invest in our health.

It could be a different story altogether if take charge of our lives in our own hands. External factors will be always there to influence, eradicate us or completely destroy us but we need to to be thick strong to stand facing them, looking them into the eye and ask them to back off.

But how? How can we be that strong to deal with any such situation in our life? No, we do not need to have superpowers but we need to have some physical strength which will, in turn, keep us in a good mood and enhance our mindedness.

As per WHO (World Health Organization), 330 Million people are suffering from some sort of mental distress. It is estimated that as many as 25% of the population suffers from mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and other emotional disorders.

Some cope with these disorders individually, without professional or medical assistance. Physical activity in a natural environment can be a promising aid for such people.

Some cope with these disorders individually, without professional or medical assistance. Physical activity in a natural environment can be a promising aid for such people.

Psychological Benefit of Physical Activity

Physical activity can have a positive effect on aspects of mental health and psychological well-being, such as depression, mood and cognitive function.

Mental Health and wellness is the absence of Mental illness, such as depression, anxiety and the ability to cope with daily challenges in a positive, optimistic and constructive manner.

Exercise can prevent or reduce the extent of mental illnesses such as depression and it is also believed to have a positive effect on self-esteem in adults. It can also enhance mood and reduce stress levels, thus allowing us to tackle daily challenges in a more positive, optimistic and constructive way.

It has been suggested that one in six adults in Great Britain suffers from a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety (Cooper and Bebbington, 2006), which makes the effective treatment of these conditions an issue of great importance. Also, because people differ greatly, explanations for improvements to mental health may vary according to the person concerned.

How exercise could help in reducing stress?

Anti-depression medication is often prescribed to treat depression, but compliance with taking these medications is often poor and they can have negative side effects (Lawlor and Hopker, 2001).

Exercise has been suggested as an alternative or additional treatment to medication and other treatments. It has been shown that exercise has a positive effect on mental health, but in practice, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why.

Psychological benefits of physical activity are:

  • positive change in self-perception and well-being
  • improvement in self-confidence and awareness
  • positive changes in mood
  • relief of tension
  • relief of feelings such as depression and anxiety
  • influence in pre-menstrual tension
  • increased sense of mental well-being
  • increased alertness and clear thinking
  • increase in energy and ability to cope with daily activity
  • increased enjoyment of exercise and social contact
  • developing positive coping strategies

It seems that an exercise duration of 20 to 30 minutes at least 3 times per week of 60%-90% of age estimated Hrmax (ACSM) could result in desirable psychological benefits or even 20 to 30 minutes of exercise may be sufficient for stress reduction (Berger, 1986; Berger & Owen, 1983), 60 minutes may result in even more psychological benefit (Carmack & Martens, 1979; Mandell, 1979)

Physical Activities to choose from:

  • Staying close to nature helps in reducing stress
  • Swimming or any Aerobic Activity or weight training are as effective as different forms of Psychotherapy and has an anti-depressant effect if followed regularly.
  • Yoga, meditation or Pranayam also helps in reduces stress level and increase vigor.

However, other recreational activities, such as ball games, aquatics, and the like, can be psychologically advantageous as well.

In summary, the potential psychological benefits of being actively involved in regular vigorous physical activity programs are as follows:

  • Exercise is associated with reduced state anxiety
  • Exercise has been associated with a decreased level of mild to moderate depression;
  • Long-term exercise is usually associated with reductions in traits such as neuroticism and anxiety;
  • Exercise may be an adjunct to the professional treatment of severe depression;
  • Exercise results in the reduction of various stress indices;
  • Exercise has beneficial emotional effects across all ages and in both sexes
  • Exercise as a dose could help measure the current and past state of an individual

If we go by the evidence and supporting scholarly articles we can believe in this method of overcoming stress and fighting any Mental Illness but to justify it on a universal level the accumulation of scientific evidence is vital in research.

The more the evidence there is a more positive link between physical activity and Mental Health. The more likely it is that the healthcare services will be directed towards providing exercise as a treatment for Mental Health Conditions instead of drug or medication, to combat the long-term side effects.

The more the people will adopt a healthy lifestyle and get into physical exercise the government and institutions will take steps in investing in exercise as a means of treatment for such condition in an individual otherwise the hospital bills and the side effects of the prolonged illness is no less than a cause of stress to the individual and the family members supporting him in his treatment.

We can improve our quality of life by adopting physical activities in our daily life. Say yes to life. 

Image via Pixabay

Mumbai based Mental Health Awareness Blogger! Featured Blogger at various platforms and an Award-winning

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