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Impact of Exercise on Mental Health

Living with mental health issues can be challenging.  Anxiety, depression, stress or PTSD can touch nearly every aspect of our lives, from relationships with our family, neighbors, and ourselves. They can effect our over all well being as well.  These issues can extend into our physical lives by diminishing our motivation to socialize, eat or exercise.  Limiting our involvement in social activities can lead to a vicious cycle plunging us deeper into a deep cycle of further depression.  Exercise plays a key role in breaking the cycle.

Exercise has been shown to improve circulation, blood pressure, lowering resting heart rate and regulate sleep patterns.  Regular exercise can improve our energy throughout the day and improve mood too.  Studies show that long term depression and anxiety are significantly reduced in the brain, endorphins and other chemicals are released which significantly improve your mood.  Socialization in group workouts helps create positive feelings. 

Commit to an exercise program that fits your needs and abilities.  A group exercise class can help keep you involved and accountable to the group, a walking program within your abilities with a friend or a neighbor can improve your outlook for the day.  Stay committed for a month and monitor your feelings, involvement and appetite. 

You may find that exercise helps improve self esteem as well as physical health.  By becoming more active you may find a loss of a few pounds gets you complements that you had been lacking previously.  This will encourage you to be more social, smile more often, feel more positive, and sleep better.  Exercise has a multitude of benefits, some physical, some mental, or social.  Start slow and work within your abilities.  A walk around the block or in the community you live in are a reasonable start.  Stay hydrated and plan ahead.  To build your endurance you can’t expect to start vigorously if you haven’t been terribly active recently.  Set goals and build from there.  A good walking partner, comfortable clothes, water bottle and a mobile phone for safety may be all you need.  

While exercise is just part of dealing with mental health issues it is often one of the most overlooked.  While your are walking or in a group exercise class, take time to look at the scenery, take in the smells, feel the sunshine of your back, listen to the birds or have a conversation.  
Get out there, get moving and let your body take care of the rest.

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