Mental Health and Fitness

A Little Goes a Long Way

By no means a magic wand that once waved, will cure all aspects of mental illness, regular exercise does, however, have the power to reduce symptoms and keep them from getting worse over time. There are several ways in which keeping fit benefits brain function, so let’s dive into the science for a moment… During exercise, a crucial protein is released that protects nerve cells in the brain, helping them transmit more efficiently.

This small action is like a depression treatment, regulating behaviours associated with the condition. Then we get to the endorphins mentioned earlier. These hormones reduces the negative effects of stress and pain, leaving you with a sense of euphoria after a particularly intense workout. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a huge role in the processes of mood, sleep, and appetite. Medications used in the treatment of anxiety and depression specifically target this hormone, and exercise is how you can get your brain to naturally contribute to this treatment.

And finally, Dopamine is the brain’s built-in reward system—a shot of feel-good when you have a positive experience. In people struggling with schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, Dopamine levels are significantly low. Consistent exercise serves to increase these levels and help maintain mental health.

Incorporating a balanced diet with your fitness plan is another way to boost mental health. Studies have found that poor physical health, like obesity and heart disease, can often lead to depression. The link between poor diet/physical health and mental illness is especially strong among children and adolescents, who are in the throes of developing their identity separate from their parents. Maintaining physical health in these instances becomes critical to support mental health.

Following a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and fish not only improves physical health but reduces symptoms of depression as well. As long as you keep in mind that what you’re putting into your body is directly impacting the functions you require to sustain a healthy mind, you’re well on your way to a life of balance and wellness.

Ease into it

As mentioned at the start of this post, therapy and medication does a lot for those struggling with mental health problems, but the connection between body and mind should not be ignored. Exercise and nutrition works wonders and should be part and parcel of your treatment plan—a lifestyle shift that will support wellbeing and positivity.

Although that might seem daunting at first, keep in mind that you don’t have to be a fitness guru from the get-go. Nobody knows your life and what it demands from you better than you. So keep your expectations low at the beginning, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The important thing is that you just take that first step.

Start slowly, make time for at least 10 minutes of exercise every day, choosing a time of day that’s convenient for you so that it will be easier to commit to. Soon those minutes will become a habit that’s easier and easier to maintain, gradually building up to longer sessions as you begin to see the positive results. A gym membership isn’t necessary either.

You can be creative with your workouts. Choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator, walking with purpose on a shopping trip to the mall instead of dawdling around—these are all forms of exercise that you can accomplish with little fuss. There are countless ways to approach this fitness mountain without feeling like you’re in over your head. And if you feel you need more guidance and support, feel free to contact ZwavelStream Clinic where our team of specialists are ready to assist you in any way you need.