So May is Mental Health Month. It is also National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. It seems only fitting to explore how physical activity helps our mental health. While we are all aware that physical activity affects our weight, it also helps prevent things such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other physical ailments. But did you know that it affects brain health as well?
Exercise increases endorphins. Those are those “feel good” things that increase pleasure. Serotonin increases with exercise. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects appetites, sleep, and mood. A lesser known effect is the improvement of the creation of protein that protects and created nerve cells in the brain helping to reduce depression like symptoms. It increases the production of dopamine, which is part of our reward system and GABA which affects emotions and clear thinking.
Did you know that exercise can be as good as therapy for reducing depressive and anxious symptoms? And even ten minutes at a time can make an impact. You can walk, lift weights, dance, play sports, do yoga, hike, or a myriad of other things. Basically, get moving!
Find what makes you happy. Cross country skiing, ice skating, downhill skiing, and skijoring are all fun activities in the winter here in Montana. But what about a snow ball fight? How about walking your dog? Or if indoor activities are more your style, go dancing, swim at the local indoor pool, hit a treadmill, do yoga, or walk in the mall. You don’t have to “exercise” to have the benefits of moving, just get out there and have fun. Montana is filled with wonderful places to hike, run, and explore. Perhaps try geocaching, rowing, rollerblading or skateboarding in the summer. Hit the outdoor pools and swim or the water park for a change of pace. The options are virtually endless.