Exercise and Mental Health

Exercise and Mental Health


It is World Cup time! And for many people, that means national pride, excitement and skipping work to catch midday games. As I watch these games I am consistently impressed with how far these players run during one game (which can be around 7 miles). While exercise and staying fit is part of their job, there are numerous benefits, physical and psychological, which come from this physical activity. Summer time is a perfect season to develop new habits and refine already positive behaviors to feel better, both physically and mentally. The following are reasons to get in shape this summer and feel better quickly!!

  • •Physical activities are a great way to protect yourself from numerous health issues including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain cancers (colon, breast), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and weight related health issues.
  • •Physical activities can reduce stress and even reverse detrimental effects of stress. Whether it provides as a distractor or allows you to feel better about yourself, stress can be reduced from engaging in physical activities.
  • •Sleep can be an issue for many people who are stressed or have specific mental health issues (e.g. anxiety, depression, health and medical issues). Issues sleeping can be further exacerbated by the day-to-day stress as well as the constant bombardment of information that technology so easily delivers. If you engage in rigorous physical activity, the chances that you will sleep better (fall asleep faster, sleep through the night and avoid early morning awakening) will certainly increase.
  • •Research clearly shows that exercise protects against certain mental health issues and is an important aspect in other mental health treatments (e.g. depression via behavioral activation). Exercise can increase confidence and the production of endorphins both of which will help reduce stress and make you feel better. Finally, research has indicated numerous cognitive benefits from exercise as well. These benefits include developing new brain cells and improving memory.

Finally, modeling can be a strong motivator. Regardless if you are thinking of your children, partner, other family members or friends, if you begin to engage in healthy behaviors, such as exercising, others will too!

It is important to consult with a doctor before starting an exercising program, especially if any medical issues are present or if it has been a long time since you have exercised. Do so and once you have the “OK”, run around, go spinning, play soccer or just go for a walk. In New York City there are a million different opportunities to exercise, try different activities until you find something that fits you. You’ll be doing yourself a great service (both physically and mentally) as well as those around you.

-ZKB                                                                                                                                                                                                                               License Clinical Psychologist