• May 24, 2020

GOOD SAMARITAN: The benefits of physical exercise for mental health - Odessa American: Lifestyle

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GOOD SAMARITAN: The benefits of physical exercise for mental health

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Posted: Monday, July 8, 2019 4:30 am

The psychological benefits of physical exercise are often overlooked even though research shows physical activity can improve the symptoms of many existing mental illnesses. Regular exercise can impact mental illness and is often prescribed by both medical doctors as well as mental health professionals for symptoms related to depression such as fatigue, tension, anger and reduced vigor.

For those with panic disorder, post traumatic disorder (PTSD), and other anxiety related conditions, exercise can help to release pent-up tension and reduce feelings of fear and worry. In some cases, exercise may decrease the intensity and frequency of panic attacks, and some research has shown that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms have responded to the affects of exercise.

Some of the many ways that physical exercise promotes positive well-being are:

  • Exercise decreases stress hormones like cortisol. It increases endorphins which give your mood a natural boost.
  • Physical activity can distract you from negative thoughts and emotions and can take your mind off your problems.
  • Exercise promotes confidence, helps to lose weight, helps to tone your body, and helps to maintain a healthy glow and smile.
  • Exercise can be a good source of social support; you may meet new friends, join a team or league, join an exercise class, and through these social activities enjoy a double-dose of stress relief.
  • Better physical health may mean better mental health through stress reduction. Stress can cause illness, and exercise may improve your overall health and longevity by strengthening your immune system.
  • Exercise may provide a barrier to future stress as well as a way to cope with current stress.

Before you begin an exercise program to improve physical and/or mental health, it is important to consult with your doctor to determine the best form of exercise and intensity level for your physical condition. If you suspect you have a mental illness or you are seeing a mental health professional, ask about how you can incorporate physical activity into your treatment. And remember that Samaritan Counseling Center of West Texas is available to help you with your mental health needs. Call us at 432-563-4144 for an appointment with one of our licensed professional counselors.

Adapted from “How Physical Exercise Benefits Mental Health,” by Katharina Star, PhD, May 2019.

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