Many people are surprised to learn that fitness and mental health are closely related. When someone is diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, or complications from obesity, it’s common for doctors to recommend treatment plans that include exercise.
Improvements in physical fitness are known to decrease the risks associated with many life-threatening diseases, but that isn’t the only application for fitness in the medical world. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, depression, schizophrenia or any other mental disorder, there’s a chance that focusing on fitness could come with powerful benefits.
Exercise may also help those suffering from low self-esteem or disorders that lead to social withdrawal. Science has proven that even moderate exercise delivers a mood-enhancing benefit that hits within five minutes of completing the activity. Other short-term benefits include enhanced focus or concentration, but it’s the long-term benefits that are so promising.
Research has now shown that fitness and mental health are so related that just 30 minutes of walking or another moderate activity performed three times per week is enough to lower a person’s risk of the following:
Notice that many of these long-term benefits of fitness address common symptoms of mood disorders and mental health issues. Someone who is depressed is likely to feel fatigued and may experience insomnia while withdrawing from social interactions. An anxiety sufferer may develop high blood pressure and suffer from sleep disorders due to their condition.
A meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials including 1877 participants, demonstrated that resistance exercise training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms.
This is just another example of why an increasing number of psychologists and therapists are not only becoming aware of the connection between fitness and mental health, they are recommending exercise to their patients. Some are taking it a step further by offering walking therapy sessions and other creative treatment models that get mental health patients moving. If you ever want someone to open up and talk to you freely, you might consider taking them out for a long walk.
You don’t need to be diagnosed with a serious mental health condition to benefit from improvements to your fitness level. There are a few critical benefits of exercise that can improve your daily life in valuable ways:
It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you currently weigh, or how sedentary your lifestyle may be at this moment. It’s never too late to add moderate exercise into your daily life, increase your daily activity level, and make healthy changes in your diet. If you’re ready to start enjoying the mental benefits of exercise, reach out to others for support online or in your local community and family. Enjoy positive fitness and mental health at ANY age!