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Exercise & your Mental Health

Girl Running Down Stairs

Do you have a history of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety?  Are the winter blues getting you down?  Believe it or not, dusting off your runners and getting active – even in this cold weather – can have huge benefits on your mental wellbeing!  Whilst the focus of exercise may be on its physical advantages, one of the fabulous ironies of exercise is its mental health benefits.

Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain), that play an important role in mood, sleep-wake cycle, libido and appetite.  Increased levels of these neurotransmitters stimulate the pleasure centres in the brain, which leads to an increased level of wellbeing.  Some research studies have suggested that exercise may be just as effective as medications in treating milder forms of depression and anxiety, and plays an important adjunctive role in the management of more severe mental health issues.

Exercise not only helps to improve sense of wellbeing through neurotransmitters.  The goal setting, sense of achievement, social interaction and shift of focus to break pessimistic thinking patterns all help in elevating mood .  The physical benefits of exercise include improved cardiovascular fitness, reduced cholesterol, maintenance of a healthy weight, increased muscle tone and strength, and a reduced risk of premature death.  These physical benefits all reduce the risk of chronic disease, such as diabetes and heart disease, which are strongly linked to mental health issues.  It is also important to think of exercise as a preventative activity – preventing both physical and mental issues.

One in four women and one in six men suffer depression during their lifetime.  If you think that you may be suffering from depression or anxiety, or finding that things in day to day life are overwhelming you, it is important to see your GP.

Feeling inspired to get active?!  It is important to seek medical advice before embarking on a new exercise program – especially if you are over the age of 35, have had a sedentary lifestyle for twelve months, or suffer from any chronic conditions.  If you feel the need for some advice as to where to begin in your new exercise program, your physiotherapist is the perfect person to head to.  Not only can we help devise a starting point, but we can also provide ongoing advice and support to help keep you motivated! –  07 35116352