It is vital that on World Mental Health Day, and every day, we raise awareness of mental health and provide sufferers with the support they need. We’re emphasising the benefits of exercise for your mental health as according to the charity Mind, a staggering 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. It’s time to prioritise our wellbeing.

Why you should exercise for your mental health

“Being physically active can also be very beneficial for our mental health too” – Hayley Jarvis, head of physical activity for Mind.

We often talk about the mind and body as if they are mutually exclusive. When in reality, they affect one another, making exercise beneficial for both our mental and physical health. Even a short burst of 10 minutes brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy, and positive mood.

And although those with depression find it extremely difficult to engage with physical activity, it can be lifesaving, so here are the benefits of exercise for your mental health:

Medication without the side-effects

Most of us find that a sunny stroll around the park improves our mood in the short term. This is because exercise stimulates the body to produce chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin that directly affect our mood, making problems seem more manageable. Research has found that more than 400,000 British swimmers have been able to reduce visits to a medical professional or cut down on their medication by getting in the water regularly.

A sense of control

A commonality amongst mental health problems is feeling as though you have no control over your thoughts and experiences. Regular exercise helps you to stick to a routine and provides you with a sense of command over your life. Take charge of your speed, distance, and impact to meet your personal goals. This will allow you to feel more capable and boost your self-esteem.

Impact on stress

When you’re under stress, you may notice that your muscles are tense and that you’re behaving differently due to heightened emotions. Physical signs of stress include insomnia, loss of appetite, sweating, and stomach ache. Symptoms like these are triggered by a rush of stress hormones in our body, otherwise known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Exercise can be an extremely effective way of reducing stress, particularly intense workouts. After training hard for an upcoming race or doing several laps in the pool, you’ll find that your worries have been pushed to the back of your mind as you have only concentrated on your body’s movements. Physical activity also improves your sleeping pattern, helping you to feel more relaxed at night.

Salford Community Leisure has 8 leisure centres across the city of Salford, a focal point of the local community. With over 1.4million member visits last year, each centre offers a welcoming environment to motivate you to stay physically fit and look after your mental health. Take a look at one of our previous articles on the importance of staying active.