A Healthy Body AND A Healthy Mind – Exercise Can Make You Happier

14th August 2018

Given the overwhelming evidence, it seems obvious that we should all be physically active. It’s essential if you want to live a healthy and fulfilling life into old age. It’s medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have:

  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
  • up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
  • a 30% lower risk of early death
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
  • up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
  • a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression
  • up to a 30% lower risk of dementia

People talk a lot about the physical benefits of exercise but the mental wellbeing benefits are huge too. We tend to think that the mind and body are separate. But what you do with your body can have a powerful effect on your mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing means feeling good – both about yourself and about the world around you. It means being able to get on with life in the way you want. Evidence shows that there is a link between being physically active and good mental wellbeing.

Stress And Your Health

If you’re constantly under stress for any reason, your body can be exposed to higher than normal levels of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline — and this can affect your health, contributing to a range of problems from headaches to depression and even high blood pressure.

People who are stressed may also be less likely to eat well or find time to exercise, or use ways to cope with stress that can damage their health such as over-eating, smoking or over-use of alcohol.
But a proven antidote is at hand — regular exercise.

How can exercise help you manage stress?

Although research has found that regular exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood, it’s not yet known why. Possible reasons are that regular exercise:

Helps boost production of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain. Physical activity can help increase levels of the “feel good” chemicals, endorphins and serotonin.
Help people with mild Depression. Evidence shows that it can also help protect people against anxiety.
Helps distract your mind from anxious thoughts. Whether you’re taking aim at a soccer ball or trying to get a yoga posture right, you’re focused on the activity rather than on your stress.
Helps improve sleep. Lack of sleep has been found to contribute to stress and may also increase the risk of depression.
Increase your energy levels. With more energy you may feel better.

What Exercise Can You Do To Help Lift Your Mood?

It’s important to choose an activity you enjoy that fits easily into your lifestyle, not one that creates more stress. Research suggests that both aerobic activity (exercise that significantly raises your heart rate) and resistance exercises (such as weight training) may be helpful for depression. No matter what activity you choose or what intensity you exercise at, every little bit can be beneficial to help improve your mental and physical health.

Tips for making an exercise habit stick

Schedule regular exercise into your calendar — just like any other commitment. A regular exercise club is a great way to do this.
Exercise with a friend or in a group — it makes exercise a social activity and helps keep you motivated.
Mix it up — going for a walk is good, but so is a bike ride, a swim or an exercise class. Including a variety of activities can make exercising more enjoyable.