Exercise and Movement to Improve Mental Health Symptoms
What movement helps?
Any movement helps! Walking, stretching, yoga, any movement you enjoy is good movement.
Why does it help?
Our bodies were not made to be sedentary. Movement feels good. Movement allows our body to get energy out if we are feeling anxious or angry or overwhelmed. Movement allows us to gain energy when we are in a low mood or have a lack of motivation. Moving our bodies allows us to feel accomplished. It’s great to accomplish something that we have been wanting to do, and feel good about doing something good for our body and our brain. Movement allows our brain to get unstuck from it’s typical thinking patterns and spurs deeper, more creative thinking. Often we can work out some of our problems while exercising.
How much do I need to do?
Again, any movement helps! Some feel that they need to do a certain amount to reach a level of support. But for most, even 10 minutes of sitting on your floor and stretching can make you feel better.
How often do I need to do it to see a change?
Most see a true improvement in mental health symptoms with 20 minutes three times a week. Does that mean you have to do that much? No! Do whatever you can. Some love getting their heart pumping enough to get some endorphins rushing. That can be rewarding, but certainly not necessary to feel benefits. Once you get started, movement itself is rewarding and you will likely fit whatever you can into your life. Benefits of exercise are cumulative and increase with consistency.
How will exercise help me?
There are multiple studies that have found exercise as an effective treatment for depression. Studies have also shown that exercise adds benefits to those who are already in therapy, and that anxiety symptoms are reduced with both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise. One group who seems to benefit most from exercise are those who are have ADHD symptoms. Studies have shown that just one exercise session improves both academic and behavior in children with ADHD as much as 30 percent. Moderate and intense exercise provide the bigger benefits for this group.
How do I get started?
Do whatever you can. Is there any kind of movement that you have done in the past that you enjoyed? Taking a walk after work? Playing in the yard with your kids? Playing basketball/frisbee/soccer with friends? Try what has worked in the past and see how you still like it. Is there any movement that you are interested in trying?
You love the idea of CrossFit/running/yoga, but aren’t sure how to get started? Ask around and see what friends and family do. Think about having a more active lifestyle, e.g. Just not sitting. Gardening, dancing, parking a couple of blocks away from your destination and walking are all ways to get more activity. Check with your doctor prior to beginning an exercise routine if needed.
Any movement helps. Double up benefits by exercising with a friend for social benefits. Enjoy movement outside and enjoy nature’s restorative benefits. Get outside and get the added mood regulating benefit of being in the sunshine. If it feels hard, keep trying. Each little bit of movement spurs more movement and added benefits.