Studies Affirm Impacts of Physical Exercise on Mental Health

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Study Links Physical Fitness to Prevention of Depression and Anxiety
image of a young lady and her colleague performing some exercise

Exercise is a bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. It is performed for various reasons, to aid growth and improve strength, develop muscles and the cardiovascular system, hone athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance, improve health as well as decrease coronary artery disease risks.

It has been validated as an effective adjunct treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, leading to cautious optimism regarding the potential efficacy of exercise as a therapeutic possibility.

A study published in the National Library of Medicines, titled: “Exercise and Mental Health” revealed the positive effects of exercise on mood states such as anxiety, stress, and depression, through physiological and biochemical mechanisms, including endorphins, mitochondria, mammalian target of rapamycin, neurotransmitters and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and via the thermogenic hypothesis.

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Exercise has also been shown to reduce inflammation via several different processes (inflammation, cytokines, toll-like receptors, adipose tissue, and via vagal tone), which can contribute to better health outcomes in people suffering from mood disorders.

It was reported also in a study conducted by the Centre for Exercise Science and Medicine, Glasgow University Scotland, titled, “Alternative Research Strategies in the Exercise – Mental Health Relationship”.  In the case of clinical depression, it has been concluded that exercise significantly decreases depression, and the antidepressant effects persist in time (from 2 months to 1 year); all modes of exercise are effective; the longer the exercise program, the greater the decrease in depression; and exercise is at least as effective as psychotherapy

Some recent studies have also found that people report a higher level of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure, and self-esteem, and a lower level of tension, depression, and fatigue after they have walked outside. People who exercise outside also say they are more likely to exercise again than those who stay indoors, many individuals choose to exercise outdoors where they can congregate in groups, socialize, and improve well-being as well as mental health.

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A man and a woman jogging

The physical benefits of exercise are also important for people with mental illness. It improves your cardiovascular health and overall physical health. This is important because people with mental health issues are at a higher risk of suffering from chronic physical conditions such as heart diseasediabetesarthritis, and asthma.

The link between exercise and mental health is complicated. Inactivity can be both a cause and a consequence of mental illness, for example. But there are lots of ways that exercise can benefit your mental health, such as:

  • Exercise can improve your sense of control, coping ability, and self-esteem.
  • People who exercise regularly often report how good achieving a goal makes them feel.
  • Exercise can distract you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences.
  • It offers an opportunity to socialize and get social support if you exercise with others.
  • Exercise increases your energy levels.
  • Physical activity can be an outlet for your frustrations.
  • Exercise can reduce skeletal muscle tension, which helps you feel more relaxed.
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It is concluded that most empirical studies dealing with exercise and mental health have insufficient statistical power to detect differences that are significant at the conventional levels of probability, mainly due to the fact that true experimental designs are in the minority.

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