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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Nack

Exercise and Mental Health

- Plato

While the concept that exercise improves mental state is not a new one, the research that supports this idea is new, relatively speaking. There is ample research to show that exercise not only helps improve symptoms of mental illness, but that it can be preventative as well. Many people exercise to lose weight or to improve their physical health, but some do so for the mental benefits. Of course, there are benefits that are metabolic, cardiovascular, pulmonary and more, so there are many reasons to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. One study, and there are many more like it, found that higher physical activity was associated with less chance for developing depression. This was found regardless of age, gender, geographic region, weight, smoking habits, and physical impairments. Of course there could be other confounding factors that were not tested for, but the research is pretty consistent. There is mixed evidence around the efficacy of exercise with bipolar and schizophrenia, but there has been some research that has found it to be helpful as well. Some physicians have stated that exercise should be a part of routine care for mood disorders even before medications or mental health counseling are tried (Schuch & Vancampfort, 2021).

The most common patient barriers are poor physical health and fatigue that can make continuous exercise a challenge. For people who have a diagnosis of some mental disorder, the symptoms may include a lack of motivation which in turn would make it harder to exercise. For those who have limited mobility or health issues that prevent them from doing popular forms of exercise such as running, there are other options. Swimming is a great choice for those who have joint pain or that have difficulty walking or standing. There are also exercises that can be done while sitting such as lifting weights or even just punching air. For those in which it is not safe to have a continuous high heart rate, even just walking a certain distance everyday could be a way to be more active. Yoga is an option that can feel more manageable, especially since it can be adapted to meet different needs. There are also activities such as dance or Zumba that can feel more fun than a normal workout ("How to Exercise with Limited Mobility", 2023). Adapting exercise to meet the needs of your body and mind can take time to figure out, but it could help improve your mental health.


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