Physical and mental health are closely linked. When you take care of your physical health, you’re also taking care of your mental health. And vice versa.
There’s a growing body of research that supports the link between physical activity and improved mental health. For example, a 2013 study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that exercise was just as effective as antidepressants in reducing symptoms of depression in adults. Another study, published in the journal PLoS One in 2016, found that exercise was effective in reducing anxiety symptoms in people with generalised anxiety disorder.
How does exercise improve mental health?
Exercise can improve mental health in a number of ways. One way is by releasing endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Endorphins are hormones that interact with the brain’s opioid receptors to produce feelings of pleasure and pain relief.
Exercise also helps to reduce stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress. When cortisol levels are high, it can lead to a number of negative health effects, including anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. Exercise helps to lower cortisol levels and promote relaxation.
In addition to the physical effects, exercise can also have a positive impact on mental health by improving self-esteem, confidence, and social interaction. When you achieve fitness goals, you feel good about yourself and your abilities. This can boost your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Exercise can also be a social outlet. Joining a sports team or fitness class is a great way to meet new people and make friends. Social interaction is important for mental health and can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
What types of exercise are best for mental health?
The best type of exercise for mental health is any type that you enjoy and that you can stick with. However, some types of exercise have been shown to be particularly beneficial for mental health, such as:
- Aerobic exercise: Aerobic exercise is any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up and your blood flowing. Examples of aerobic exercise include running, swimming, biking, and dancing.
- Strength training: Strength training exercises help to build and strengthen your muscles. Examples of strength training exercises include lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing body weight exercises.
- Yoga: Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Yoga has been shown to be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
How much exercise do you need for better mental health?
The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity most days of the week. Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
However, even a small amount of exercise can have a positive impact on mental health. A 2010 study published in the journal **Mental Health and Physical Activity** found that just 10 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise was effective in reducing stress and anxiety.
Tips for getting started with exercise
If you’re new to exercise, it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts over time. It’s also important to find activities that you enjoy so that you’re more likely to stick with them.
Here are some tips for getting started with exercise:
- Choose activities that are appropriate for your fitness level.
- Start with short workouts and gradually increase the duration and intensity over time.
- Find activities that you enjoy.
- Set realistic goals.
- Find a workout buddy.
- Listen to your body and take breaks when you need them.
If you have any health concerns, be sure to talk to your GP before starting a new exercise program.
Improving your physical health is a great way to improve your mental health as well. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall well-being. So find activities that you enjoy and get moving!
Hiking can help improve your mental health
Hiking is a form of exercise that combines physical activity with exposure to nature. This combination can have a number of benefits for mental health, including:
- Reduced stress and anxiety: Hiking can help to reduce stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Endorphins are hormones that interact with the brain’s opioid receptors to produce feelings of pleasure and pain relief.
- Improved mood: Hiking can also help to improve mood by promoting relaxation and reducing negative thoughts. When you’re out in nature, it’s easier to focus on the present moment and let go of worries.
- Increased self-esteem and confidence: Hiking can help to increase self-esteem and confidence by providing a sense of accomplishment. When you reach the top of a mountain or complete a challenging trail, you feel good about yourself and your abilities.
- Reduced symptoms of depression: Hiking has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression. A 2016 study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry found that people who hiked for at least 30 minutes three times a week for eight weeks experienced a significant reduction in symptoms of depression.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your mental health, hiking is a great option. It’s a fun and rewarding activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels.
Here’s some tips for getting started with hiking:
- Start slowly and gradually increase the distance and difficulty of your hikes over time.
- Choose trails that are appropriate for your fitness level.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
Hiking is a great way to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and improve your mental health. So get out there and start hiking today!