Research shows that doing regular physical activity 5 times a week can help you maintain positive mental health and prevent you from developing mental health problems. In this blog post we explore how being physically active helps your wellbeing.

Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins (the happy, feel-good hormone), dopamine and serotonin, in the brain. These hormones are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators and are responsible for the positive feelings you get post workouts — or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over! Doing exercise releases these feel-good hormones and make you feel happier and your body feel good.

Whether you decide to go for a run, take a dance class, go for a walk in nature, do the housework or even take the stairs, your body releases the feel-good hormones which combat the negative ones (cortisol and adrenaline), which can make you feel worried, overwhelmed and anxious. Of course, some cortisol is necessary as it helps helps you manage stress, but too much can lead to physical health implications.

Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine gives structure to your day and creates a space for you to focus on yourself and your wellbeing. Being active helps you feel stronger, more energetic and combat negative thought patterns and anxiety.

Setting and achieving goals and tasks can boost your confidence and promotes a positive body image. Doing group physical activity also allows you to connect with people who share your interests and combat loneliness and decrease isolation.

Finally, studies show how doing physical activity reduces the chances of developing depression and other mental health problems. Also, physical exercise helps you sleep better as it makes you feel more tired at the end of the day.

Is physical activity always good?

While being active is proven to be very beneficial for most people, if you notice you’re feeling unwell and find it too difficult to exercise, don’t be hard on yourself and give yourself time to focus on other things that make you feel good. Also, always be aware if doing physical activity is having a negative impact on your mood or behaviour, for example if you have an eating problem or find you are overtraining.

Ultimately the goal is to nourish a balanced healthy lifestyle, which you can sustain and enjoy.


Author: Sarah Speziali, Chief Therapist at InsideOut