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    UPDATE: Colleen is featured in the article: Exercise for Mental Health: How Being Active Benefits Your Wellbeing by Anthony O’Reilly, writer for Garage Gym Reviews

    How does exercise help mental health?

    Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do to maintain good mental health. We’ve all heard that sleep, nutrition, and light exposure affect your mood and energy level. However, there’s another factor: exercise. Having a regular exercise plan can help improve your mental health.

    The benefits of exercise go way beyond just feeling good. Other positive effects include reducing symptoms associated with depression and anxiety as well as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. This in turn decreases the risk of heart failure, disease, and stroke. Different activities have different benefits for your mind and body. We all know there isn’t one specific type of workout routine that works best 100% for everyone. Certain types of exercises may be best suited for some people rather than others.

    Your physical and emotional well-being depends on many factors, including age, gender (in some cases), fitness level, and life choices. Your physical condition also factors into the equation. If you’re just starting out with exercise, you’ll need to start slowly. As you get stronger, you can increase the level of intensity in your workouts.

    What are the best types of exercises for mental health?

    lady doing cardio exercisesThere are various types of exercises that improve your mental health. Cardio exercises increase the circulation of blood through the body. This improves brain function by reducing inflammation and relieving stress. Cortisol and adrenaline are stress hormones that are released when we feel fear, anxiety, anger, or excitement. Cortisol causes blood pressure to rise. Adrenaline is a chemical produced by your body that causes your heart to beat faster and makes you feel more alert. Both of these hormones play an important role in regulating moods and emotions. Studies suggest that high levels of cortisol may be linked to higher rates of people with depression. Exercise lowers both cortisol (the “fight or flight” hormone) and adrenaline (the “reward” hormone). Aerobic exercise increases energy levels and improves sleep. Gym activities such as lifting weights, stationary biking, and rowing are all great to get your blood pumping. Strength training helps build muscle mass and bone density. These benefits can help prevent osteoporosis later on in life. Chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity can all potentially be affected positively by exercise. When you address your physical condition, the mental aspect of your well-being will also improve.

    lady doing yoga for exerciseThere are other ways to improve your mental health besides focusing on physical exercise. Meditating is an excellent way to relax and de‑stress. Yoga helps relieve anxious thoughts. Instead of meditating on your breathing, relaxation therapy focuses on relaxing parts of the body and finding peace within yourself. Gentle stretching is also good because you’re directing your mind to slow down, not to overwork/overthink itself.

    Whether you push yourself in vigorous activity or do calming stretches there is a chemical reaction within your body that results in making you happy! Exercise changes negative moods. When a workout is completed, you are more likely motivated to continue with other healthy habits. A regular workout schedule builds consistency, and your mind will begin to associate this new habit with positive feelings. The goal should be to work up to at least 30 minutes of the moderate-intensity level activity. Doing so will help your physical and mental health. The effects of exercise will last a lot longer than the time it took to complete the activity. You’ll feel better all day long.

     What does the research say about links between exercise and mental health?

    lady jogging for exerciseThe link between exercise and mental health is well established. Exercise increases levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating moods. After a workout, serotonin levels increases. Combining these two elements results in an improved sense for most people. In other words, your quality of life improves when you incorporate regular exercise into your lifestyle.

    As mentioned above, exercise can also help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Depression is a common problem among college students. A study on students by the National Institute of Mental Health, revealed approximately 20% of college students suffer from some form of depression. A person who does not exercise regularly has a greater chance of developing depression.

    The symptoms of anxiety are similar to those of depression. Studies have shown that exercise can help reduce anxiety levels. People who exercise have lower levels of anxiety than people who don’t exercise. According to the NIMH, nearly 30% of college students have experienced at least one episode of anxiety disorder.

    Exercise also helps with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD affects up to 13% of children and adolescents. Symptoms include difficulty focusing, being easily distracted, and having trouble controlling impulses. It’s important to note that there isn’t any cure for ADHD. However, exercise can help manage symptoms. Exercise has been shown to reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity in individuals with ADHD.

    Do you see a lot of people with mental health issues struggle with exercise?

    Client in chair struggles with mood disorderClients come to counseling and voice frustration and disappointment, feeling guilty or ashamed because they know they need to exercise but they don’t. Many have been diagnosed with mental health issues such as mood disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, and others. They often think their problems are too big and most know that exercising is good for them, but they don’t do it because they believe they’re not strong enough to get started. Counselors can provide support and guidance and help them understand why they struggle. This helps them realize that they aren’t alone. Strategies can be developed to overcome these barriers.

    Your mental health concerns don’t need to keep you from exercising. Work with a professional. Try different activities until you find one that works for you. If it’s cardio exercise, then go for it! If it’s strength training, then do it. Start by finding something you enjoy doing, then keep at it until you get better. If you’ve struggled with exercise before, don’t give up. Start again by going for a short walk around the block. The mental and physical health benefits are significant enough to overcome this challenge.

    What are the barriers to exercise that people face?

    make the change start exercisingWhile there are many reasons why someone may not want to exercise, one of the main ones is due to poor body image. If someone doesn’t feel good about themselves, then they won’t be motivated to exercise; they don’t believe they’ll look any different afterward. Lack of self-esteem leads to low levels of energy and drive. When someone lacks self-worth, they often find it hard to get motivated to do things. They may also struggle to eat healthy foods and stay active. Substance misuse is another common reason why someone may not want or be able to work out. Someone who abuses drugs or alcohol may find it difficult to focus on physical activity.

    If you find yourself feeling guilty about not working out, a professional therapist can help. Today, take the step towards starting an exercise program. By leaving your life to fate, you’ll only end up disappointed. You deserve better than being stuck in a rut.

    How does exercise impact the brain?

    Exercise and the brainExercise has many effects on the brain. It improves blood circulation which can enhance cognitive function. Regular exercise has been shown to improve memory, learning ability, attentiveness, and problem-solve­ing abilities. It can even help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

    Your brain needs constant stimulation from the environment for optimal functioning. The brain responsible for movement and coordination is called the cerebellum. It receives input from the muscles and joints through the spinal cord. The nervous system tells the brain where the different bodily organs are in relation to each other. When we exercise, the cerebellum receives signals from the muscles and sends them to the brain for interpretation.

    When we work out, our bodies release endorphins into our bloodstreams. These chemicals help relieve tension and create feelings of happiness. Physical activity can boost self-esteem and confidence. A healthy body leads to a healthier mind.

    Get Support From A Mental Health Professional

    Get help new heights logo phoneThe staff at New Heights Counseling & Consulting, LLC wants you to know, that help is available. Contact us at (850) 575-4100 to schedule an appointment with one of our experts who specialize in helping clients overcome mental barriers, negative views, and perspectives. If you need treatment for depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, or any other mental health issue, we’re ready to assist you. We offer 15 minutes free phone consultations and have immediate openings. Your mental health outcomes will improve when you receive the right care. Professional therapists will help you reduce your stress levels about exercising and will help look at the reasons why you struggle with an exercise program.

    Daily routines are important for maintaining good physical and emotional health. Our mission is to help you get the most out of life through our counseling services. We want to help you enjoy life to its fullest. and find solutions to problems that may be causing you distress.

    Learn more about our staff bios on our website at meet our team. Your therapist will work with you at whatever pace you’re most comfortable with and will be there for you every step of the way. Make use of this chance to improve your views on physical activity and mental health so you may lead a healthier lifestyle. You will get excellent care at New Heights Counseling.

    Additional Resources:

    Grumpy Mood? Go For A Walk! Okaloosa County, FL. Trails “Hidden Gems” by Coleen Wenner

    Personal Self-Care by Stephen McCrea

    Exercise for Mental Health

    Other Mental Health Services Offered At New Heights Counseling

    We offer helpAt New Heights Counseling, we provide individual counseling for a wide variety of mental health concerns and mental disorders. Our services are for children, adolescents, and adults and we offer in-person sessions at our Fort Walton Beach, FL location and online therapy for the state of Florida.

    We are located on the 2nd floor of WorkSpace Suites at 1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 1057, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547. Get directions here Google Maps or visit our office location webpage. Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM. Evenings/Weekends by appointments. Call (850)757-1552.

    About the Author:

    Colleen Wenner New Heights Founder Clinical DirectorColleen Wenner founded New Heights Counseling Center in order to provide counseling services for people who struggle with mental health issues. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Master Certified Addiction Professional. Colleen is a certified supervisor in Florida as well as an EMDR trauma-certified practitioner and consultant in training. She is also licensed by the state of Virginia to provide professional counseling. Colleen is committed to providing excellent client care and services in the Fort Walton Beach, Crestview, Niceville, Destin, and surrounding communities.

    Colleen has always been an advocate for mental health wellness and has devoted her whole life to spreading awareness among the public. She has been featured in various podcasts including Practice of the Practice (The #1 Podcast for counselors in private practice), Shrink Think Podcast, and The Salty Christan Podcast. Colleen uses compassionate, authentic communication to help her clients understand themselves better and become more confident about their abilities.