Guide to Self Care: Exercise

Regular exercise has been found to have a positive impact on mental health. It’s been proven to help depression, anxiety, ADHD and more. Research has also found that regular exercise can also impact memory, sleep and overall mood. Patients don’t even need to be “gym rats” to reap the benefits of exercise on their mental health, modest amounts of exercise can make all the difference– regardless of age and fitness level.

Exercise and Depression

For those with mild to moderate depression, exercise may be a valid form of treatment. Studies have found that leading an active lifestyle can be as effective as antidepressants, without the side effects that come with taking antidepressant medications. How exercise can help fight depression is through the changes our brains go through when we’re active. Neural growth, reduced inflammation, increased production of endorphins are all byproducts of exercise that can help keep depression at bay.

Exercise and ADHD

Exercise can reduce the symptoms of ADHD, improve concentration and increase motivation, memory and mood. The boost in dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels we get when we exercise can affect both focus and attention. In this way, exercise functions similarly to ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Exercise and General Anxiety Disorder, PTSD and other Anxiety Disorders

Similarly to how exercise can combat depression, it’s also been shown as an effective way to help the treatment of general anxiety disorder, PTSD and other anxiety disorders. Exercise relieves tension and stress, boosts mental energy and helps provide a positive outlook through the release of endorphins. Really focusing on the workout and how we feel during it can help patients with anxiety disorders break the cycle of negative and anxious thoughts. For those struggling with PTSD and other trauma, evidence suggests that by focusing on how we move and how it feels to be active, we can help our nervous system move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD. Exercises the involve cross movements that engage both the arms and legs, such as walking, running, swimming, weight training, and dancing, are some of the best choices. Activities that get us outdoors, such as hiking, sailing, mountain biking, skiing and more, have also been shown to be beneficial for those experiencing PTSD.  

How Much Exercise

Three or more session per week of aerobic exercise or resistance training, lasting about 45 to 60 minutes per session, can help treat mental illness. Effects tend to be noticed after about four weeks of consistent activity and training should be continued for at least 10 weeks to have the greatest effect, according to research. It can be intimidating to start exercising– especially if patients haven’t done it in a while. But, a plan can help us start and stick with it. First, it can be helpful to find an activity that was enjoyed in the past. From there, exercise should be built up gradually. Making exercise a part of our everyday activity can help make it a habit.

How We Can Help You?

Best Day Psychiatry and Counseling is here to help you have a better day and find a better way. We treat a wide range of psychiatric conditions for both children and adults. Contact us today, we’re ready to help:

Fayatteville: (910) 323-1543 Fuquay-Varina: (919) 567-0684 Raleigh: (919) 670-3939