A recent study found that all types of exercise are linked to improved mental health. Durations of 45 minutes and frequencies of three to five times per week of more intense exercise were associated with an approximate decrease in mental health burdens by 20% (Chekroud et al., 2018). This may not come as a surprise to those who frequently enjoy exercising. This is also not earth-shattering or new information, but it bears repeating. For those who prefer or need less intense exercise, a simple walk can make a difference. Exercising together gives you more to talk about.
Going to the gym almost forces the deep breathing and mindfulness prevalent in mental health literature. Running on a treadmill or lifting challenging weights gets my breath going. Suppose I am focusing on sore muscles or getting enough oxygen for optimal performance. In that case, I find it challenging to think about much else. A group class can create a healthy sense of community. The endorphins released through exercise can also improve one’s mood. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep, improving mental health (Kovacevic et al., 2018). Also read about 5 ways exercise helps your relationship.
While gym memberships can be expensive, a walk around the block is free for those who are physically able. Push-ups, crunches, and sit-ups can provide significant health benefits. There are not many YouTube videos with exercise routines and free or paid exercise apps for one’s phone. The extra benefit of looking fit can provide enhanced benefits as well. Exercise can be performed as a couple, killing two birds with one stone.
If finding the time is a challenge, perhaps consider taking the stairs instead of an elevator. Maybe you could park a bit away from the prime parking spot. Maybe bicycling to work is an option, and in areas with high traffic, it may not take much longer than driving. Exercise can be combined with watching a tv show. There are even mini-treadmills for under one’s desk at work. Unless one’s body prevents them from activity, there are plenty of reasons to exercise and few reasons not to. Exercise can also improve your sex life. Counseling can be helpful when exercise alone is not enough. Exercise can also be an opportunity to share an activity as a couple and can improve relationships. For those with chronic pain, counseling is available that, among other things, can help you decide if there are exercises you can do.
Chekroud, S. R., Gueorguieva, R., Zheutlin, A. B., Paulus, M., Krumholz, H. M., Krystal, J. H., & Chekroud, A. M. (2018). Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1· 2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(9), 739-746.
Kovacevic, A., Mavros, Y., Heisz, J. J., & Singh, M. A. F. (2018). The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews, 39, 52-68.
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