Psychology of Exercise: Improvements in Mental Health
What Is Exercise Psychology?
Positive Effects of Exercise on Mental Health
- Less-active people have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help individuals lower high blood pressure and lose excess weight; excess weight is often a contributing factor to hypertension.
- Physical inactivity increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association reports that regular physical activity minimizes the risk factors of diabetes. For example, a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week can help lower insulin resistance.
- Physically inactive people are more likely to develop coronary heart disease. Research published in Circulation Research indicates a correlation between sedentary behavior and cardiovascular health. Exercise can improve levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and help prevent cardiovascular chronic diseases.
- Physical inactivity can add to feelings of anxiety and depression. A key benefit of exercise for stress and anxiety is that it can help elevate depressed moods in people quickly. According to JAMA Psychiatry, a 15-minute jog every day and walking or gardening for an extended period of time could help people struggling with depression.
- The risks of certain cancers rise with physical inactivity. Evidence that the National Cancer Institute has highlighted suggests a relationship between physical activity and cancer. It reports that physical activity can help lower risk of certain cancers, including bladder, breast, and colon cancer.
- A sense of well-being. Regular exercise releases endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that can improve mood and well-being.
- Reduced Individuals can use exercise and physical activity as a coping mechanism to help take their minds off their worries and better deal with situations that increase feelings of anxiety.
- More energy throughout the day. Exercise can boost energy, helping individuals overcome mental burdens that can lower their energy levels and potentially lead to more symptoms of anxiety or depression.
- Better sleep. Mental health and sleep problems often go together. According to Harvard Health, up to 80% of psychiatric patients struggle with chronic sleep problems. However, regular physical activity can help healthy individuals sleep better.
- Improved memory. A 2020 study in Translational Sports Medicine found that a single exercise workout helped improve memory functions in young adults.
- Self-confidence. Setting and meeting exercise goals and getting into shape can help individuals feel more positive about themselves.
Resources: Positive Effects of Exercise on Mental Health
- Association for Applied Sport Psychology, About Sport & Performance Psychology: A description of how sport and performance psychology professionals can support people at every age and across various conditions.
- BetterHelp, The Top Six Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise: A medically reviewed resource about the importance of exercise in achieving mental health.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adult Physical Inactivity Prevalence Maps by Race/Ethnicity: Data showing where adult physical inactivity, a contributor of mental health issues, is most prevalent.
- Frontiers in Psychiatry, “Beneficial Effects of Exercise on Depression and Anxiety During the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Narrative Review”: A scientific review on how exercise helped individuals struggling with depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Live Science, “Five Mental Health Benefits of Exercise”: An exploration on the impact of exercise on mental and physical health and creating cognitive improvements.
Exercise Tips for Improving Mental Health
- Heart rate, which helps bring more oxygen to the brain, resulting in improved energy levels
- Connections in the areas of the brain that regulate emotions and perspectives of the world around you
- Levels of serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and other neurotransmitters that help increase happiness and motivation
Resources: Exercise Tips for Improving Mental Health
- Athlete365, Expert Guide to Staying #MentallyFit: Expert advice on how athletes can cope with mental health barriers.
- Your Brain Health, “5 Simple Tips to Improve Mental Fitness”: Insights into how individuals can improve their mental fitness and reduce their chances of mental health problems.
- Cleveland Clinic, Can Sports Hypnosis Improve Performance?: An exploration of hypnotherapy in exercise routines.
- ScienceDirect, “Chapter 1 — Exercise for the Prevention and Treatment of Depression”: A study of how exercise strategies can help people with major depressive disorder.
- Team USA, “7 Mental Tips for Athletes That Can Help Us All in This Time of Uncertainty”: Mental health strategies that athletes use.
- S. Department of Homeland Security, “7 Tips for Mental Fitness”: Employees working for government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are often faced with stressful situations. This resource offers tips for government employees and others to improve mental health.
- Verywell Fit, “Why Positive Attitude Is Important in Sports”: A discussion of the impact of a positive attitude in maximizing athletic performance.
How Can an Exercise Psychologist Benefit You?
- Adopt and maintain physical activity. An exercise psychologist can guide individuals on the types of physical activity that can help boost their mental health and encourage them to embrace and maintain a healthier lifestyle that includes exercising for mental health.
- Establish and follow up on goals. Setting goals allows individuals to work hard toward an achievement. An exercise psychologist can play a key role in establishing appropriate goals and supporting clients throughout the process.
- Work on their motivation. An exercise psychologist can help build the motivation needed to get people active. Motivation plays an important role in getting individuals to adopt and maintain an exercise regimen to promote both physical and mental health.
- Use mindfulness techniques. Distractions along the journey to physical and mental health can hamper individuals’ success in embracing a healthy lifestyle. A professional can help them to pay attention, live in the moment, accept themselves, and focus on breathing.
- Use performance enhancement techniques. Individuals may need guidance from an exercise psychologist to learn to eliminate negative thoughts and substitute them with positive self-talk, focus, and concentration. Along the way, an exercise psychologist also encourages achievements to help to boost mood and encourage performance.