Thursday, April 27, 2017

Using Exercise to Manage Stress and Maintain Mental Health

Using Exercise to Manage Stress and Maintain Mental Health

 It seems like the world never slows down, especially when we are at our most busy or stressed.  As a result, mental illness and anxiety disorders are on the rise. (*You may be surprised to know that Utah is the state with the highest reports of mental illness with 22.3% of the adult population reporting some form of mental illness) 

How can we manage our stress and keep mental illness at bay? You may be surprised to learn that one of the answers is exercise.  Research shows that exercise not only keeps your body healthy, but can also help to keep your mind healthy and functioning at a higher level longer.

Cardiovascular exercise such as jogging, dancing, biking, gardening, and walking have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. This is believed to be because of the increased blood flow to the brain.

Movement is also suggested to have an influence on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls our reaction to stress and many other body processes, such as digestion, motivation, mood, and sex drive. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms of low self-esteem and social withdrawal.

Physical activity can also affect the number of new nerve cells we grow in a region of the hippocampus - an area of the brain involved in learning and memory.

So how do you apply this to your life?

  • Move more to reduce stress
    If you've had a rough day at the office or at home, hop on your bike or take an evening walk to find stress relief. Doing so boosts your body's ability to deal with existing mental tension.

  • Move more to find happiness
    Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed and may be as effective as antidepressant medications. Talk with your physician about incorporating exercise into your mental health care plan.

  • Move more to remember more
    While exercise and a healthy diet can't "cure" Alzheimer's, they can help protect the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45. Moving more on a regular basis boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.

  • Move more to boost your smarts
    Research shows that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. A challenging workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making and learning.

  • Move more to manage addiction
    The brain releases dopamine (referred to as the reward chemical) in response to any form of pleasure. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and depend on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol. But short exercise sessions can distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings, at least in the short term. 

If you feel like you are at your mental breaking point just reach for your jogging shoes to help improve your mood and your mental health!

Yogic wisdom found here


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