We have all heard how important exercise is for our physical health. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Besides benefiting our physical health, exercise is also extremely beneficial to our mental health. In this article, we will explore the mental health benefits to exercise.
Anxiety disorders are common in the United States, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) indicates that 40 million adults age 18 and older (18.1% of the US population) are affected by anxiety disorders annually (https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics). The ADAA reports that 16.1 million adults over the age of 18 (6.7% of the US population) suffer Major Depressive Disorder in a given year.
Most of us have noticed that a brisk walk outside or a jog around the block can lift our mood, but what does the science say about exercise and mental health?
Exercise's effect on the brain
Exercise can enlarge certain areas of the brain by improving blood supply that increases neuron health through improved delivery of oxygen and nutrients. One of the areas that enjoys this effect is the hippocampus. This area of the brain is responsible for memory, emotional regulation, and learning. Studies completed in other animals show that exercise leads to the creation of new neurons. Research also shows that several mental health conditions, especially depression, are associated with lower amounts of growth and development of nervous tissue in the hippocampus.
Where to turn when you need additional help?
If you struggle with a major depressive or anxiety disorder, exercise along may not be enough. You will likely need help from mental health professionals such as a psychiatrist and therapist. If you live in the State of Texas, Seeds of Change Counseling Center is offering video counseling during this time of pandemic. Call us at 512-676-5813 for a free counseling consultation to see if we would be a good fit!