Beat burnout with burnout coach Leanne Spencer

The benefits of exercise for mental health

Stress and exercise
Stress is one of the biggest killers in today’s society. Left unchecked it can lead to physical and mental breakdown, illness, the disintegration of families and relationships, the loss of jobs and livelihood, and in some cases loss of life. At best, it makes life difficult, more challenging and less enjoyable. Now exercise can’t directly help certain things, like how to handle a difficult scenario at work, how to pay the mortgage, how to get your child into a good school or how to get a promotion, but it can help to improve your state of mind, help you sleep better and therefore think more clearly; it can help you think and communicate rationally and perhaps feel more relaxed and in control of other areas of your life.

Exercise has been proven to decrease the production of stress-related hormones like cortisol, and increase the production of other hormones such as serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine, which together can contribute to making you feel more positive, happier and uplifted. There’s also something very rewarding about making a plan of action, and then getting ready and going out and doing it, whether it’s going for a run, completing an exercise session or just going for a walk. Just making a plan and sticking to it can be really gratifying. It can also help to take your mind off some of the negative emotions you might be experiencing, or give you some time out of the home or office.

Anxiety, depression and exercise
Exercise is often under-prescribed by the medical community as part of a treatment plan for anxiety and depression, but despite that is widely considered to be central to helping people manage their condition. It isn’t only the chemical responses in the region of the brain, (or specifically in the pituitary gland, which is not part of the brain but a small protrusion at the bottom of the hypothalamus), that help make people feel better about themselves, but also the physical changes that can help improve one’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth and competency.

The brain and exercise
There are numerous positive changes to the brain that occur during and after exercise (in particular aerobic exercise). These changes occur in different parts of the brain, and in some cases the benefits are still enjoyed even after you stop exercising. These benefits include:

• Increased blood flow to the brain allowing it to thrive
• Adaptations that mean the brain can turn certain genes on and off, which can have the effect of boosting brain function
• Improved brain function can reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, strokes and cognitive decline
• Generation of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, dopamine and glutamate as well as encouraging the production of serotonin
• Supply of extra oxygen to a part of the brain called the hippocampus (responsible for learning and memory) and helps to create new brain cells. This process is called neurogenesis, and these new cells survive even after you stop exercising

Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, author of the Amazon bestselling book Rise and Shine: Recover from burnout and get back to your best and Founder of the Rise Method® and Bodyshot Performance Limited. Connect with me @riseshinemethod or Facebook.

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