Why exercise and mental health are the perfect pair

There are dozens of ways to treat mental health conditions, and for many, the first course of treatment includes lifestyle modifications. Lifestyle modifications are ways to alter your existing habits long-term, so that your day-to-day lifestyle is healthier. Modifications can include stress reduction, sleep pattern adjustment, and increased exercise.

Finding the motivation to lace up your sneakers and do whatever kind of exercise you’re most inclined toward is not always easy, but maybe it can be a little easier to find that motivation when you know that exercise can strengthen your body and mind all at once.

How are exercise and mental health linked?

Exercise can have a major impact on your mood and well-being. Studies have proven that aerobic exercises, like jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. When you do aerobic exercise, you increase blood circulation to your brain, and influence something called the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis, and these two factors combined can reduce your stress on a physiological level.

Exercise can also be a great distraction, improve self esteem, and increase social interaction if you’re doing it in a group setting. You don’t need to be a marathon runner or an Olympic bodybuilder to reap the benefits of regular exercise. Researchers have found that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like power walking, three times a week, is enough to see these health benefits.

What are some of the benefits of exercise on mental health?

The health benefits that come with regular exercise positively impact both physical and mental health. Some include:

  • Improved sleep
  • Increased interest in sex, which is great when you’re trying to conceive
  • Better endurance
  • Stress relief
  • Improvement in mood
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
  • Weight reduction

Exercise, mental health, and TTC

While the jury is still out on whether or not exercise actually directly promotes fertility, we know for certain that women who are overweight are more likely to encounter issues of infertility, like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Healthcare providers recommend that women get at least 30 minutes of solid exercise a day in order to best manage their weight, and avoid the conception issues that are linked to being heavier.

Regular exercise can improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression, and improve cognitive function and self esteem. It’s a great idea to check in with your healthcare providers, both physical and mental, about an exercise routine that promotes your health and wellbeing while trying to conceive.

Read more
  • “Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood.” Guszkowska M Psychiatr Pol. 2004 Jul-Aug; 38(4):611-20.
  • Callaghan P. Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care? J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2004;11:476–483.
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