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Benefits of regular exercise: Beyond the physical

Why do people exercise? Well, sometimes to get physically fit and sometimes it’s to look good. But there are some other benefits which, in the opinion of many, far outweigh the importance of just getting a little slimmer for summer. Exercise is now widely known to improve on a persons mental and emotional health.

And as mental health issues are becoming less of a taboo subject, they’re being talked about more and awareness is growing as a result. This means that ways to help are also becoming more well known. One of the best and simplest methods is regular exercise.

For people with ADHD, commonly prescribed medications include Adderall and Ritalin, the effect of which is very much the same as what you get from regular exercise but with no side-affects. Exercise is known to positively impact mood, motivation, memory and concentration levels, all things that can be negatively impacted in the presence of ADHD.

But how does it work? Well, regularly exercising increases the production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These hormones are what makes you feel satisfied and relaxed after exercise and are closely linked with a persons ability to focus.

You don’t have to suffer with a specific disorder or mental illness to feel the positive mental and emotional effects of exercise, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Everyone has something in their life that causes them stress and as your doctor will tell you, stress can manifest itself in many different ways, both physical and mental.

Some get a sense of mental fog or disorientation when stressed and struggle to think straight and find it difficult to concentrate on tasks that they wouldn’t otherwise find challenging. Physical symptoms of stress can include insomnia, heartburn, headaches and stomachache amongst other things.

And while some go to their doctor or pharmacist for a quick fix in the form of medication, Doctors are advising more and more people away from pharmaceutical ‘solutions’ and towards more natural and sustainable ones such as regular physical exercise and meditation.

Since the 1970s alternative methods of combating anxiety and depression symptoms have been on the rise in both number of methods and people using them. One which is particularly popular, is light aerobic exercise and meditation. Aerobic exercise is, in basic terms, exercise that doesn’t get you out of breath or drastically raise your heart-rate (as opposed to anaerobic activities such as running).

Prevalent examples of this include Pilates and Yoga. If you’re from a city you’ve most likely met someone who goes to yoga classes and you may have noticed that the participant demographic is much wider than it used to be. No longer is it just your typical free spirited ‘hippie’ type, but people from all walks of life are taking part due to the vast health benefits that come as a result. Most of which are mental.

One survey suggested that as many as 7.5% of the entire adult population of the United States have, on at least one occasion, taken part in yoga exercises. It’s easy to see why, the stress reductive outcome that many participants claim to have is one that you don’t hear about from many other participant activities. Although less documented in terms of actual benefits than other forms of exercise the customer satisfaction seen from online discussion pages and forums are incredibly positive.

One small study from the University of Utah indicated that yoga practice improves tolerance to stress and even physical pain. So next time you’re feeling worked up, go for a walk, do some yoga or meditate before resorting to meds.

references: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm#started

 https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression

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