Psycological benefits of exercise and physical activity

Psycological benefits of exercise and physical activity

A great post from Riley

Psycological benefits of exercise and physical activity:

It's quite profound that exercise and physical activity are very beneficial for our health from a physiological perspective, however there is very little discussion on the psycological advantages of participating in physical activity and exercise. 
Anxiety, Depression, Stress, Mood, Sleep, Conigtive Activity and Quality of Life all have a positive correlation to exercise.

Anxiety: A pathological counterpart of normal fear, manifested by disturbance in mood, thinking behaviour and physiology...
Anxiety VS Fear: 
Anxiety is a nervous disorder charcterised by excessive uneasiness and apprehension in the absence of a realistic threat.
Fear is a proportionate apprehension to a realistic threat.

Exercise does in fact reduces the levels of anxiety and anxiety decreases your bodies ability to perform. Studies have shown that there are postive effects for both aerobic (long continuous efforts eg: long run) and anaerobic (short and intense efforts eg: sprinting or gym based training) types of training. The effects are greater for aerobic exercise however, effects of exercise return to pre-exercise levels within 24hrs. Suggesting that to treat anxiety we need to add exercie and physical activity to our daily or weekly routines. 
Why does it work? It may be due to the physiology of our bodies releasing specific hormones and neurotransmitters. It also may be increasing confidence in one's self in relation to exercise competency or improved self perception on body image.

Exercise has a similar effect on people with depression, showing a moderate relationship between the two. Psychotherapy identifies that your emotions influence your behaviour. Changing cognitions will promote increased sense of well being and decreased anxiety. Exercise is an effetive psychotherapy in reducing depression. It is like your own personal counsellor. Chronic exercise or physical activity programs have a larger effect on the reduction of depression and anxiety.

Why does it work? My assumption would be to do with purpose, having a goal to achieve and smaller goals being completed giving people a sense of accomplishment. Which I believe would be a link to a boost in self-esteem and confidence. Lacking self confidence increases anxiousness and potentially depression. As confidence increases, anxiety decreases. 

Mood: A host of transient, fluctuating affective states that can be positive or negatve OR... A type of affective state that is accompanied by anticipation of pleasure or pain. 

Research has suggested that participating in moderate intensity exercise for approximately 20 to 70 minutes has improved individuals moods. The activity one may need to participate in are exercises that increase the heart rate to approximately 70% of heart rate max and 70% of maximal oxygen uptake. This suggests that aerobic exercise is more effective at increasing mood then non-aerobic activities.

Sleep: How much sleep is enough? 62% of people require the recommended 7-8hrs a night, 23% 6 hours or less and 15% greater than 8 hours. Everyone is different. 
Does exercise help us sleep for longer? Most studies have been with individuals who do not have sleeping disorders and are reasonably fit. However, the longer you exercise, the longer total sleep time. Although the result is minimal for acute physical activity. 
There is currently no evidence that exercise immeadiatly prior to bedtime disrupts sleep. However, there are multiple recommendations of how to increase your sleep time prior to sleep which I will discuss in another post.

Self-Confidence: Is the belief about achieving success. 

The benefits of self-confidence arouses positive emotions, facilitates concentration,affects your goal setting, increases effort, affects games strategies, affects psychological momentum and affects performance. If we are underconfident or overconfident (arrogant) it will not optimise our physical performance in the gym, or on the sporting ground. 
Confidence usually originates from performance accomplishments, mental imagery, goal setting, positive self-talk/thinking and success.

In summary, exercise does have a significant postive influence on our psychology. So if you have never been to a gym before, never played structured sport or participated in much physical activity and do struggle with conidence, anxiety, depression, stress and sleep... Exercise is one way to help improve those psycologcial burdens!

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