May 4-10 is Mental Health Week in Canada – an important opportunity to raise awareness about mental wellbeing and to support those working towards it. We all have mental health, and for me, achieving and maintain optimal mental health is really about finding balance. Click here for everyday tips for keeping mentally healthy.
Maintaining our mental health is a lot like staying physically fit and requires effort on a daily basis. With one in five Canadians expected to experience a mental illness, I thought it timely to share 10 of the leading mental health benefits of exercise:
1. Exercise reduces and helps us manage stress:
One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Stressed out? Try working up a sweat! My favorite physical stress busters include going for a run, a brisk walk outdoors, or hitting some balls on the tennis courts.
2. Boost your happiness naturally:
Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Learn more in my recent feature: Exercise can ease anxiety and depression.
3. Gain self confidence:
Get moving to look and feel more confident. Learn more about the physical and mental health benefits of tennis and other sports.
4. Connect with nature to feel happier:
Find an outdoor workout that suits your needs, interests, and budget. You’ll be amazed at what a little fresh air and exercise can do for your happiness. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or having a rough day, unplugging, exercising, and reconnecting with nature, is my therapy! A walk with my dog, some yoga in my backyard, or a rally on my neighbourhood tennis courts all work wonders.
5. Sharpen your mind and memory:
Research suggests exercise can shore up our mental health, and may also prevent cognitive decline as we age. Regular physical activity also boosts memory and our ability to learn new things. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
6. Beat the blues and manage anxiety:
Exercise is a great way to beat the blues and manage anxiety. Experts believe it works by releasing feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins); by reducing immune system chemicals that exacerbate depression; and by increasing body temperature, which can provide a calming effect.
7. Relax more, sleep better:
Exercise helps us relax and can lead to a better night’s sleep – just don’t do it too close to bedtime or it may have the opposite effect!
8. Exercise boosts productivity:
Research suggests employees who exercise regularly have more energy and are more productive than their more sedentary colleagues. Take the stairs, have a walking meeting, walk or cycle to work, or run errands on a break or at lunch.
9. Exercise to for the social benefits:
Whether you walk your community, join your community tennis club, or register for a fitness class, once you get moving, you’ll be amazed at the people you connect with and the friends you’ll make. Invite others to join you – exercising with a friend helps boost motivation and keep it fun.
10. Inspire Others:
Get moving for more confidence, increased motivation, and a healthier outlook while inspiring others with your commitment to health. The more you move, the better you’ll look and feel.
Here’s to health and happiness!
Senior Lifestyle Writer & Active Living Ambassador, Tennis Canada