Mental illnesses are a common problem in the United States, and recent statistics show that more than 40% of people with mental illness do not receive any care for their symptoms. Many researchers believe that exercise may prevent or improve various mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders and depression. This article examines some of these potential benefits of exercise on mental health:
Exercise has been linked to decreased anxiety. For example, high school students performed much better on math tests after exercising than when they did not exercise. College students showed improved memory for facts after 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise.
Like with anxiety, more physical activity is correlated with less depression. One Australian study found that women who engaged in physical activity had a lower risk of depression compared to those who did not exercise. It is believed that both aerobic and resistance training can decrease depressive symptoms.
Exercise can also reduce stress by decreasing cortisol levels, which helps balance the body’s response to stressful events. In one study, students were given either a brief bout of moderate exercise or a 30-minute walk. They were then given difficult puzzles to solve under stress, and it was found that the group that exercised had less cortisol after working on the puzzles than did the group who did not exercise.
4) Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD):
Exercise has been used to treat ADHD and has shown to be beneficial in improving attention and behavior. However, if a person with ADD/ADHD is not interested in exercising, medications such as Ritalin or Adderall are recommended.
Exercise can help people get better sleep by promoting tiredness at the right time in order to prepare the body for sleep. Exercise also helps with insomnia and sleep apnea.
Physical activity has been shown to improve memory performance in both children and adults, potentially by increasing hippocampal grey matter density. One study found that aerobic exercise had a positive effect on working memory in overweight children. Another suggested that people who exercise may perform better on memory tasks than those who do not exercise, and increased fitness is correlated with improved executive function.