The Many Benefits of Physical Activity for Mental and Emotional Health

Recently, A friend asked me, “Why do you work out so much?” Considering I go to the gym at least four times a week, I pondered the question. Truthfully, there is not one answer to this question. There is an abundance of benefits for exercising regularly. Exercise is well known to enhance one’s appearance and increase physical health and stability. What most people do not realize, is that exercise has also been proven to help relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and dramatically increase mental and emotional health. I cannot think of a single aspect of gradually increasing physical activity that would harm a person rather than help them.

The most common interest in increasing exercise is for the health and visual benefits. Regular physical activity reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, weight fluctuations, and high blood pressure. According to a Mayo Clinic article about the benefits of physical activity, “In fact, regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls. When doctors tend to patients with these types of diseases, it is the norm to encourage the patients to increase activeness.

This is simply because of the plethora of hormones that are increased during physical activity, however, physical wellbeing is not the only benefit from exercising regularly. Anxiety disorders can be closely correlated to our physical inactiveness. Inactivity can decrease brain functionality and can impair emotional and mental health. One of the most frequently used reasons for anxiety is unused energy. The energy a person could be burning while being active, is now being used to create hormones in our brains the secrete stress, anxiety and in some cases, more serious mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and phobias.

Anxiety is also known as the body’s “fight or flight” system. Inactivity is the act of doing nothing, therefore, when we are inactive, our brain can misfire stress and anxiety hormones. Cortisol is a stress hormone, an excess of Cortisol is the cause of anxiety. Physical activity counteracts the release of Cortisol and prevents more from being produced, which will greatly benefit a person’s mental health. Mental health is a person’s condition with regard to their emotional wellbeing. Mental health consists of, and can potentially affect a person’s memory, self-image, emotional state, and alertness. Poor mental health can result in insomnia, high stress levels, and poor academic performance.

Good mental health is important in daily activities. The brain is no different than any other muscle in the human body. Exercise, especially aerobics can greatly benefit brain function. Scientifically, physical activity increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. The brain then actively distributes good hormones that replenish brain cells.

A good flow of oxygen to the brain can decrease a person’s anger and confusion levels, as well as cure headaches. Physical activity enhances one’s appearance and increases physical health and stability, as well as help relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and dramatically increase mental and emotional health. Memory, stress, anxiety, and anger, can all be reduced by physical activity. Even low impact activities such as swimming and walking, can promote physical and emotional health. In retrospect, exercise is imperative to improve one’s life. It only takes one step at a time.

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