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You Can't Have One Without The Other

Our physical health directly affects our mental health—when you’re sick and just generally weak, do you feel happy? A healthier body equals a healthier mind. If you’re in a bad physical shape, you may well feel depressed. If you’re depressed, the more you don’t want to do anything. The less activities you do, the worse your state becomes physically. It’s a harmful cycle that can only be remedied by consciously deciding to be active right here, right now.
So how does exercise benefit our mental health exactly? For one, exercise encourages the release of natural painkillers and natural “happy” chemicals in the brain such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. When we exercise, the release of these chemicals is triggered and we come out with a heightened sense of well-being. Have you ever heard of the term “runner’s high”? This sense of euphoria is achieved by runners who push their bodies to run even though every sense of their being tells them to stop. Studies have also shown that exercise encourages the release of other chemicals in the brain that is linked to helping new brain cells to grow and develop.

Exercise is also linked to higher confidence and self esteem. One of the more obvious reasons is that exercise leads to a better physique and therefore leads to a better appreciation of one’s body, which can also translate to a heightened sense of self-worth. There is also a sense of achievement associated with exercising, so a person who exercises feels prouder of himself for taking care of his body. Exercise can also help people who have mental health problems and in fact, one study showed that 83% of people with mental problems took to exercising in order to relieve themselves of symptoms of anxiety and depression. Two thirds of all the study participants said that exercise relieved them of symptoms of depression while half of the study population said exercise reduced stress and anxiety. Meanwhile the study also interviewed regular gym members and an overwhelming seven out of ten said that they knew their mental health will suffer if they stopped exercising.

So how much exercise does a person need each day in order to be healthy? It must be said that any exercise is better than nothing at all so if you don’t exercise at all, a few minutes of mild exercise such as walking or doing household chores for a few minutes each day is enough. Once you have built up your strength and stamina, you can move on to more vigorous activities and moderate exercises such as brisk walking or jogging for 20-30 minutes a day. Strenuous exercises are best reserved for those who are well conditioned in order to avoid injuries.

There are many reasons why a person can be unmotivated to exercise. Feelings of embarrassment, laziness or fear of body pain can be some of these reasons. In order to motivate yourself to exercise, start small and pick an activity that you love doing. Were you good at dancing? Did you use to enjoy hiking as a kid? Do you love walking your dog? Incorporate exercise into the activities you love and you’ll soon find your inhibitions melting away. You can also try exercising with friends and family to make it all the more fun and more of a bonding activity.