While we are all facing challenges in the way we are able to live due to current circumstances, it has been widely communicated how important it is for us to look after our mental and physical health as best we can during this time. We know that movement and exercise are as important in looking after our mental wellbeing, as it is for our physical health. This presents the opportunity to look at the reasons why completing regular exercise or physical activity can help to improve and manage our mental wellbeing.
Regular physical activity may produce positive effects on brain function through enhancing the growth of new nerves and blood vessels in our brain. There is an increased expression of certain hormones and neural pathways within our nervous system which may help to increase our brain function.
To help us understand this more simply, we can think about these changes in the following way:
‘We know that regular resistance training (i.e weight lifting) can increase the strength and size of our muscles. We also know that regular aerobic activity (i.e running) can increase the capacity and health of our heart and lungs. Hence, the same can be said for our brain. Regular exercise can help improve its function, just like it does with our bodies other organs or muscles due to the changes that occur at a more cellular level.’
Most modes of physical activity such as swimming, walking the dog, jogging to music, riding a bike, gardening, bushwalking, yoga and weight-lifting are all beneficial for improved mental wellbeing. With some research showing activity outdoors can have greater positive effects on our mood and mental wellbeing. This being said, exercise is not the only form of therapy that can assist with improving our mental wellbeing, with practices such as mindfulness and meditation also helpful. Exercise with a friend to keep connected & motivated. Even small amounts regularly will show benefits. So get those walking shoes on.