HEALTHY BODY, HEALTHY MIND. BUT WHY?
PROVISIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST | @jacquisandland
We all know that physical activity is good for our bodies, but what about our brains?
You’d be right if you immediately said ‘dah’! It’s clear that when we manage to drag ourselves to a training session, even when it’s the last thing we feel like doing, we often finish the session feeling better than before. So, why exactly does it affect our mental health in a positive way?
Participation in exercise can reduce stress levels due to the distraction from worries or negative feelings that we may be experiencing. Beyond this, there’s also the release of chemicals called endorphins.
Endorphins interact with the receptors in our brains, and reduce our perception of pain. They actually trigger a positive feeling in our body, similar to morphine. The best part is these chemicals are natural, and don’t lead to addiction or dependence.
Now you might say that endorphins are also released when you’re eating chocolate. To that we’d ask – are you distracted from your negative thoughts while eating the chocolate? #checkmate
If playing a team sport is more your jam, than you’re in luck! Team sports allow us to be part of a group, which is a psychological need that stems from way back in history when we needed to be part of a group to survive. We know that increased positive social interaction leads to better mental health outcomes and a team environment is perfect for creating these experiences.
Team participation also allows us to support and work together while going through the highs and lows of competition. Here, opportunities to improve problem-solving, decision making capabilities and leadership skills are also heightened. Hmmm… a skill development opportunity and a self-esteem boost that you wouldn’t expect from sport – are you starting to see a pattern here?
You gotta iPad? You gotta gym. This app is for the indoor runners who want to feel the fresh air on their face, or at least pretend the aircon is coming from an exotic location. With BitGym, users are able to stream a driver’s seat view of scenic trails from all over the world with just their iPad or TV.
By simply setting up your device in front of you, you’re able to tap into over 100 virtual trails and explore locations like Santa Cruz, the Grand Canyon, or European destinations like Venice – providing the perfect visual to zone out and relax.
It’s no surprise, but it’s important to remember that when we increase our activity levels, we tend to sleep better. We know that research suggests that increased exercise often leads to longer, deeper sleep – particularly for females and people of lower fitness levels. I’m sure you can’t deny that when you’re well rested you generally feel better. Regularity is the key here. So start clocking up the k’s by going for a walk or playing a social sport and the distraction, skill development, social interaction, and sleep will all follow suit!
So now that you know why physical activity is so closely linked to your mental health you can use it to trigger things like skill development and problem solving as well as cement some healthy habits like getting enough sleep!