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Published 14-04-2023

The Positive Impact of Exercise on Mental Well-Being

MENTAL HEALTH

The Positive Impact of Exercise on Mental Well-Being

When we think about the benefits of working out, physical health benefits such as weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, and increased muscle strength may come to mind. However, regular exercise can also significantly impact our mental health. Studies have shown that working out can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress and improve our overall mood and cognitive function. In Ayurveda, physical and mental health are considered interdependent. An imbalance in the body can lead to an imbalance in the mind and vice versa.  

In this article, we'll explore the scientific reasons why exercise enhances mental health and provide tips for incorporating physical activity into your daily routine. 

Exercise Enhances Mental Health

1. Balances doshas  

In Ayurveda, mental health is believed to be closely related to the balance of the body's three doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha -. When these doshas become imbalanced, it can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. Regular exercise is an excellent way to help balance the doshas and promote mental well-being.  

For example, Vata imbalance can cause anxiety, fear, and restlessness. Engaging in grounding exercises such as yoga, walking, or strength training can help balance Vata and promote a sense of calm and stability. Similarly, Pitta imbalance can cause anger, frustration, and irritability. Cooling exercises such as swimming or leisurely walks in nature can help soothe Pitta and promote relaxation. 

2. Decreases Ama  

Ama is a toxic substance that accumulates in the body due to poor digestion and lifestyle habits. Ama build-up in the body can result in physical and mental health issues. Regular exercise is an effective way to decrease Ama levels in the body. It helps to stimulate digestion and metabolism, helping the body eliminate toxins and waste more efficiently. Sweating during exercise is also a natural way to detoxify the body and remove Ama. Additionally, exercise promotes circulation, allowing nutrients and oxygen to reach the cells and tissues, improving overall health and reducing the risk of illness.  

Contact a toxicologist with online consultation if you're having digestive issues or unable to catch up with the surroundings due to health issues.

Also Read: What is Ayurvedic Toxicology

3. Calms your mind  

In addition to the physical benefits, an exercise is a powerful tool for calming the mind and reducing stress and anxiety. Worry, fear, and anxiety results from an unbalanced Vata. Regular physical activity helps to reduce the excess Vata and calms the mind and body. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, natural painkillers and mood boosters. It creates a feeling of euphoria and happiness, which can help to combat negative thoughts and emotions.  

Mindful exercise practices, such as yoga and tai chi, can be particularly effective for calming the mind.

4. Enhances Cognitive Performance  

Physical activity increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, improving cognitive function, memory, and learning. Exercise also stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and development of new brain cells and neural connections.  

Incorporating movement breaks into your workday, such as a short walk or stretching session, can also be an effective way to boost cognitive performance and productivity.

5. Boosts Energy and Mood  

Regular exercise has been shown to impact energy and mood positively. One reason is the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, which is released more readily after exercise. This can contribute to an overall increase in happiness and motivation. Furthermore, exercise can enhance energy levels by promoting the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles and tissues. This can help to reduce fatigue and increase endurance during physical activity.   

To incorporate exercise into your routine to boost energy and mood, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. This includes brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or dancing.

Exercise Enhances Mental Health

6. Reduces tension and stress  

Those with anxiety disorders should start working out. Physical activity can help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which can contribute to anxiety and tension. Even muscular tension can be reduced through exercise. To incorporate exercise into your routine for stress reduction, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. This can include activities like yoga, Pilates, weightlifting, and traditional forms of aerobic exercise like jogging, cycling, or swimming.  

7. Manages depression  

Regular exercise is an effective tool for managing depression. Exercise increases the serotonin and endorphins in the brain, both help to improve mood and reduce feelings of depression. In addition, exercise also increases self-esteem and self-confidence and helps to promote a sense of accomplishment.   

To manage depression, performed moderate-intensity exercise for 30 minutes. This can include walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, or other mind-body practices. 

8. Establishes a Community-Sense and Social Support  

Joining a gym, participating in group sports, or exercise groups can provide opportunities for social connection and interaction with others with similar interests and goals. Someone who supports or cheers you up can also help you stick to your exercise routine.   

Exercise is a personal journey, and everyone's goals and preferences may differ. Don't be afraid to try new activities and explore different options until you find what works best.

9. Promotes Sound Sleep  

A good, sound sleep is crucial for maintaining good mental health. When the excess Vata is removed from the body, it helps in improving the length and quality of sleep. Exercise helps regulate the body's circadian rhythm, the internal "clock" that regulates sleep and wake cycles. When stress and anxiety are reduced, you automatically improve your sleep. Engaging in physical activity earlier in the day can help to promote feelings of relaxation and calmness, which can carry over into the evening and make it easier to fall asleep.  

If you're still facing trouble with sleep, connect with our practitioners through online consultation. They can help you know the root cause of mental disturbance and help ease it through natural remedies and lifestyle changes.  

10. Improves Overall Well-Being  

Regular exercise can improve overall well-being by promoting physical health, mental health, and quality of life. Make exercise a part of your daily routine and find activities you enjoy making it sustainable in the long term.  

5 Ways Exercise Enhances Mental Health

Beneficial Foods To Lift the Mood And Improve Mental Health 

  • Fatty fish: Fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential for brain health and can help of reducing the symptoms of depression.   
  • Dark chocolate: Flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to elevate mood and lessen depressive symptoms.  
  • Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds are high in healthy fats, fibre, and protein. These nuts and seeds help to stabilize blood sugar levels and improve mood.   
  • Whole grains: Oats, brown rice, millet, and amarnath are great sources of nutrition and can provide numerous benefits for mental health. They are a high source of protein, rich in fibre, and a good source of vitamin B  
  • Fermented foods: Yogurt, idli-dosa, and chutneys are fermented foods that are created by the process of lacto-fermentation, which involves the breakdown of sugars and carbohydrates by beneficial bacteria. This process creates probiotics, which can improve digestion and boost the immune system, as well as beneficial enzymes and nutrients. 

Conclusion  

According to National Health Mission, 6-7 % of the population suffers from mental disorders. In Ayurveda, mental health is closely linked to physical health, and imbalances in one can affect the other. Incorporating regular exercise and nutrient-dense, mood-boosting foods into your diet can help to balance the doshas and promote overall health and well-being. If you're dealing with poor eating habits and have a chronic illness that affects your mental health, connect with Healthy Bazar's Ayurvedachrayas through online consultation. 

Last Updated: Apr 17, 2023

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