There have been numerous studies demonstrating that exercise has a positive effect on mental health. Most notably is a change in mood and reduction in anxiety, but how is that possible?
When a person experiences an injury or medical event, their ability to perform normal, everyday tasks may be impaired. In addition, they may have pain with even the smallest effort. This can impact a person’s self-confidence or bring about a feeling of hopelessness and the onset of depression.
Physical activity increases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which positively effects mood. It also triggers the release of endorphins, a chemical which can interact with receptors in the brain to decrease the perception of pain. This reduction in pain and improved mood can decrease anxiety.
Exercise also improves sleep. Regular exercisers report taking decreased time to fall asleep and the ability to stay asleep throughout the night, allowing the body and mind to repair and regenerate by completing the necessary sleep cycles. People who get enough quality sleep generally experience mental clarity, an improved mood, and increased stress tolerance.
In addition to the physical practice, yoga has added benefits that promote relaxation and stress reduction through breathwork and meditation. The controlled movement and breath awareness functions to calm the body and mind while focusing on positive thoughts and images improves mood. Regular yoga practice can lower blood pressure, improve breathing, and increase adaptability, which in turn allows a person to better handle everyday stressors.
There are many forms of exercise that are beneficial in improving mental health symptoms. It is important to find enjoyable activities and a PT or yoga instructor can help find a program that suits each individual’s needs.