• BLOG
  • Fitness

Exercise and the brain

Exercise is often touted as one of the easiest ways to improve mental health, with evidence suggesting it can be as effective as antidepressants for those with mild to moderate depression. Yet, widespread research has found that those with anxiety and depression are amongst the least likely to exercise regularly and, over the past decade, the number of people being prescribed antidepressants has doubled, pointing to a dearth in the use of exercise to combat mental health illness. It is a well-known fact that a precursor to lack of engagement is a lack of understanding; simply being told “it’s good for you” isn’t sufficient motivation, understanding why it’s good for you is crucial. To facilitate this, we have summarised some of the latest science behind the beneficial effects of exercise:  

Physical exercise…

  • encourages the release of endorphins, a powerful group of chemicals that are closely related to mood and wellbeing
  • can have a normalising effect on the fight or flight sensations that forms the start of a panic attack because it produces similar physical effects, such as a raised heartrate and perspiration.
  • stimulates chemicals in the brain called ‘brain derived neurotrophic factors’ that lead to the growth of brain cells and an improved cognitive function
  • increases blood flow to the muscles, causing blood vessels to dilate and releasing tension. Physical relaxation engenders feelings of mental relaxation  
  • leads to an increase in the availability of brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which play a key part in our mood and how we think
  • has a proven normalising effect on sleep, a crucial component for good mental health
  • oxygenates blood, bringing an increase of oxygen to the brain which, in turn, increases brain health