Don't Underestimate the Impact of Fitness on Mental Health

Enjoy a run on the beach - Naples Beach, Naples Florida (Nov 2023). Photo Courtesy of Charly Caldwell II

As mental health continues to garner attention, finding effective strategies to improve wellbeing has become a top priority.

While therapy and medication are crucial components of mental health treatment, an often overlooked and powerful tool is exercise. Engaging in regular physical activity not only enhances physical fitness but also has a profound impact on mental well-being.

Cardiovascular exercise, characterized by activities that increase heart rate and breathing, such as running, swimming, and cycling, is widely recognized for its numerous physical health benefits.

However, its impact on mental well-being should not be underestimated.

Mood Enhancement:

Engaging in cardio exercise triggers the release of endorphins, commonly referred to as the feel-good hormones.

These chemicals interact with receptors in the brain, reducing stress, enhancing mood, and promoting an overall sense of well-being.

Regular cardio exercise has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and more!

Stress Reduction:

Fortunately, cardio exercise acts as a powerful stress reliever.

Physical activity stimulates the production of neurohormones like norepinephrine, which help moderate the brain's response to stress.

Additionally, cardiovascular exercise increases the brain's production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, known for its mood-regulating effects.

Cognitive Function:

Cardio exercise has been shown to enhance cognitive function and improve mental clarity.

Regular aerobic activities promote the growth of new neurons in the brain, particularly in regions responsible for memory and learning.

Increased blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain during cardio exercise also support optimal brain function.

Strength training is commonly recommended for physical fitness and muscular development.

However, the mental health benefits of strength training are equally as remarkable.

Self-esteem Boost:

Strength training helps develop physical strength, endurance, and a sense of accomplishment.

Over time, this progress can lead to improved self-esteem and body image.

This positive self-perception can translate into enhanced mental well-being and overall confidence.

Stress Relief:

Similar to cardio exercise, strength training acts as a potent stress reliever.

Intense physical exertion during resistance exercises can help release tension and frustration, leaving exercisers' feeling more relaxed and centered.

Depression Management:

Strength training has also been shown to be effective in managing symptoms of depression.

Regular participation in resistance exercises can stimulate the release of endorphins, improving mood and reducing depressive symptoms.

By incorporating both cardio and strength training into a fitness routine, you can experience a holistic approach to mental well-being.

Cardio exercises improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive function, while strength training fosters self-esteem, stress relief, and depression management.

Together, they create a powerful combination that supports mental health on multiple levels.

Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist and Tony Robbins Results Coach from Fort Myers. She also is a Corrective Biomechanics Specialist, USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach, has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification, and a PhD in results!

Contact her, or find out more about her monthly online program, at:!



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