The benefits of physical activity on mental health are well known. What if staying active was part of the effective means to promote good mental health?
Mental health, a question of well-being
The term “mental health” is not limited to the mere absence of mental illness. According to the World Health Organization, it is “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. The fast pace of modern life can sometimes compromise our psychological balance, this is why it’s important to find simple and effective strategies to maintain balance. Physical activity is one of them.
Paradoxically, in today’s society, we see a marked interest for health-related issues and the search for individual well-being, while problems concerning sedentariness and obesity continue to rise. Consequently, choosing to be more active can be beneficial for everyone, whatever their age, sex, social status, occupation or health status.
Although you don’t often see the reference “increase physical activity” written on your medical prescriptions, it is nonetheless a recommended measure to fight and control many diseases. Mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disease and schizophrenia, are no exception.
Benefits for the mind
Physical activity can have many positive effects on the mind, such as:
- improve mood, vitality and quality of life
- generate a feeling of pride, self-esteem and general well-being, especially when it leads to successful weight loss
- increase the ability to concentrate and make it easier to accomplish daily activities
- reduce stress and improve your ability to manage it
- promote better quality sleep
Additionally, if you are living with mental illness on a daily basis, including exercise in your daily routine may help you to reduce your symptoms and to better cope. To get the most out of your efforts, choose activities that you enjoy and that are suited to your abilities and lifestyle.
The appropriate level of physical activity
You don’t have to become a high level athlete to see the benefits of physical activity on mental health. Doing moderate exercise (especially aerobics) for at least 15 to 30 minutes a day can be enough to notice changes in mood and well-being. That being said, if you feel that you can do more and you would like to do so, go for it! However, remember that, when starting a new and more rigorous exercise program, when you have a chronic illness such as heart disease, it’s better to speak to your doctor first. It could also be useful to call upon the services of a qualified personal trainer.
In short, putting physical activity at the heart of your priorities is a simple and accessible way to take care of well-being and health, including mental health. Keep in mind that pharmacists can prove to be valuable advisors when it comes to medications, as well as for non-pharmacologic solutions, to help you stay in peak physical and psychological form. Don’t hesitate to speak to them.