How Physical Health Impacts Mental Health

Pre-teen girl riding mountain bike with her parents during a family camping trip, close up

The human body is a well-oiled machine that requires maintenance and care to function at its best, and, unlike a car, the body can’t be traded in for a newer model if it gets rundown. In order to take care of the body you are in, there are a certain few things that can be done to keep everything in tip-top shape, and physical health is one outlet. Physical health has the ability to not only impact the waistline, but it has an effect on overall mental health as well.

One of the best examples to show just how big the impact physical health and exercise is on the mental state is the effect these activities have on the brain itself. Exercise increases blood circulation, which means more energy and more oxygen throughout the body. The increase in energy and oxygen to the brain helps it to think better, helps with memory and helps with overall performance. An increase in the brain’s ability to function is a sign of positive mental health.

But, it is not just the brain that benefits from added blood flow. Exercising is a great stress reliever and an outlet for anxiety, and, unlike binge eating and consuming alcohol during stressful times, exercise makes you and your body feel better mentally and physically instead of piling on the calorie guilt and severe hangover. Run or box that anxiety and stress out, and your body will thank you for it.

Physical fitness and exercise are also known to have a positive impact on overall mood and have even been known to also reduce or help manage depression symptoms. Being active can actually make you a happier person even without seeing physical results from the activity.

With the ability to provide a better function to the brain, to decrease levels of stress and anxiety, and to increase overall happiness, physical health and fitness seem like a great thing to add to a weekly routine, and below are some examples of optimal exercises.

A study was conducted by researchers to determine which exercise activities had the most impact on mental wellness, and it was found that all exercise does have an effect, just in different doses. Team sports and activities like basketball and soccer created the most impact because of the social aspect of the activity being combined with the physical element. Forming friendships through hobbies is known to decrease depression and anxiety, and participants in group sports were found to be happier and have more positive moods than participants who exercised alone.

If group sports do not fit into your level of coordination or comfortability, there are individual workouts that impact persons at high levels as well. Another way of tackling or preventing feelings of depression and overcoming anxiety is to practice yoga. The techniques in yoga are aimed at relaxation and easing stress, so this exercise is great and highly recommended to individuals going through stressful situations.

Cycling is an exercise that has been found to keep the white matter in the brain healthy. Why is that important? Healthy white brain matter allows for smooth thinking processes, which means clearer and more focused thinking. Running is also a way to clear thoughts and focus on the important stuff, according to ADHD diagnosed documentary photographer Martin Eberlein and other psychological studies.

Different exercises can impact the brain in different ways, but all exercises have a positive effect on overall mental wellness. Start with a routine that fits into your schedule and your abilities. If you are comfortable with what you are doing, then you’re more likely to continue the behavior. Just start and watch as your view becomes clearer and happier.