The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise!

Depression is a common mental health disorder that affects 15-20% of Canadians at least once in their lifetime. Common mental health disorders (depression, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorder, post-traumatic stress, etc.) generally lead to isolation, physical pain, difficulty concentrating, reduced energy, sleep, a dysfunctional occupational schedule and physical deconditioning. Fortunately, physical activity makes it possible to regain healthy lifestyle habits and reduce , or even eliminate, the symptoms of mental health disorders.

The hormonal effect of exercise

Common mental disorders are usually caused by a hormonal imbalance . We generally observe a deficit of neurotransmitters that promote well-being (serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine) and a release of cortisol (related to stress).

The regular practice of physical activity increases the natural secretion of serotonin (hormone responsible for well-being) and decreases the secretion of cortisol (stress hormone). This is why physical activity has antidepressant effects . In addition, the tranquilizing effect of exercise by reducing cortisol is accompanied by a relief of the psychological state. Regular physical exercise therefore improves the mood and certain functional abilities of people suffering from depression thanks to a positive effect on the control of the hormones and neurotransmitters affected by this disease.

In addition, exercise is beneficial in the long term since it reduces the risk of relapse and the need for external assistance. Health professionals agree that exercise is essential for mental health and balance. Several of the metabolic changes induced by exercise improve brain function. For example, during physical activity, endorphins are released, which contribute to feelings of well-being .

A regulatory effect

Physical activity also lowers heart rate , increases lung capacity, and improves cardiorespiratory fitness . Living with a mental health disorder can lead to isolation and apathy. By staying at home to rest, a process of deconditioning can begin quickly, resulting in a drop in energy and an increase in the sensation of pain. Physical activity breaks this vicious circle through the reactivation process. In addition, lowering the heart rate calms the body and reduces stress. Cardiovascular exercises help to better manage anxiety and emotions.

Jeff Theberge


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