The link between exercise and mental health has been studied since the early 1900s. Various studies show a relationship between exercise and how it can ease anxiety and depression, improve mood and self-esteem, and help a person achieve quality sleep.
Researchers have engaged in many studies to determine the effect that exercise has on patients suffering from anxiety. Anxiety affects 7.3 percent of the U.S. adult population to the point of requiring treatment. 81 percent of the studies found a definitive link between decreased anxieties following exercise, with no conflicting information. The other 19 percent also found a link between reducing anxiety by exercising, however, there were some conflicting results. But more often than not exercising aided in calming anxiety.
Clinical depression affects 2.5 percent of Americans, and since the turn of the 20th century there have been over 100 studies done to examine the relationship between exercise and depression. All of the studies that have been conducted clearly illustrate that exercise is linked to a significant reduction in depression symptoms. Exercise can actually have an antidepressant-like affect that may be evident the first week of starting a fitness routine. These studies have also illustrated that exercise can create a greater affect when the exercise program is longer than nine weeks.
Exercise doesn't just have an effect on anxiety and depression. It can also affect mood, self-esteem and sleep. The Surgeon General's Report mentions that exercise may improve mood, however, there have been no analytic reviews in this area. But there have been 4 meta-analytic reviews focusing on how self-esteem is affected by exercise. These studies have shown that exercise can bring about small but significant increases in self-esteem.
There has also been clinical evidence that increased physical activity can be beneficial for alcohol and substance abuse recovery, as it can help improve social skills, cognitive thinking and dependence. Exercise can even improve brain function in the elderly and help stave off dementia.
With the mounting evidence that exercise has a positive impact on many of the body's systems, engaging in physical fitness to promote healthy mental function is a smart move. Even light exercise such as walking or stretching offers a myriad of benefits. Exercising for 30 minutes, 3 times a week is recommended to maintain healthy brain function and may relieve symptoms of common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. So get movin!