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Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Given 2021 hasn’t gone as smoothly as everyone hoped it would with us diving back into lockdown for a second time here in Newcastle, it’s extremely important for us to manage our mental health in the healthiest possible way. Everyone knows the physical benefits that exercise has on your body (think Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing) but how can it benefit the things you can’t see in the mirror, such as your mood, stress and other factors like that? Below are three great reasons to get stuck into a home-based exercise program or socially distanced walk in the sun during these uncertain times! 


Exercise can improve anxiety!

Symptoms of anxiety initiate the sympathetic nervous system and bring on symptoms like sweaty palms, increased heart rate and mild dizziness. Whilst these sensations are usually interpreted as reasons to feel fearful, they can be remedied with exercise as this can expose you to similar feelings of being uncomfortable, only in a controlled environment. This allows people to be comfortable in feeling uncomfortable. Exercise can also help ease symptoms of anxiety by connecting you to the single most important thing in everyone’s day to day, your breath.Put simply, exercise forces you to take deep breaths and this activates a part of the autonomic nervous system that controls your heart rate and respiration. Lowering these can indicate to your brain that any perceived threat is gone, helping you feel less anxious. 


Exercise increases mood!

Exercise triggers the release of feel good chemicals in your body, endorphins. These chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, help to reduce stress and this helps you feel better. This is the reason that, even after the hardest gym session or hill run, you feel content and confident. It’s also been suggested that exercise can reduce the risk of depression by 25% so the long term benefits are there to be seen. 


Exercise helps you cope with life in general!

Exercise provides you with a healthy and sustainable coping mechanism for both the short term and into the future. It can act as a distraction, giving you time to focus on nothing else but how many reps you can do or how many kilometres you can walk, it can relieve stress as we’ve talked about and it has long term benefits for your health, keeping your body moving and functioning the way it should for longer! The beauty of working out and emotional wellness is that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: The more you sweat, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the more you want to work out. It just takes a single step to get started.


If you need a little help taking that first step give Hunter Rehabilitation and Health a call and book in with Exercise Physiologist, Tom, to discuss ways to reach your goals!



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