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  • Youth Mental Health Association

Exercise and mental health

Trigger warning: eating disorders, body dysmorphia, mental health

Exercise, to some may be something “extra”, that they have to make time for in their busy day. However, exercising has numerous benefits to our personal physical and mental wellbeing and I personally highly recommend that it should be incorporated in our lifestyle.

Obviously, you don’t have to exercise every single day, or spend hours at the gym every single day because we are all busy, and overexercising is detrimental to your health. It could also be a symptom of body dysmorphia or eating disorders (this is what I personally experienced during my struggle with an eating disorder). During this time, I felt like I had to exercise, and I did not exercise for my health, nor because it made me happy. After around a long period without exercise during recovery and another relapse, I was finally able to fully appreciate exercise, and now I exercise a healthy amount, and because it makes me happy and I feel so much better after; so now, I don’t view exercise as something that I have to do. I feel energized and more uplifted.

Research has indicated that even moderate exercise in one’s life can make a profound impact. Exercise releases endorphins and can promote neural growth, as well as reduction of inflammation (Robinson, et al.). For example, there was a finding through a study that either running 15 minutes or walking an hour on a daily basis contributed to decreasing the risks for major depression by 26% (Robinson, et al.). In addition, it can distract a focus from negative cyclical thoughts (Robinson, et al.). It also has shown that physical activity helped reduce anxiety in individuals exhibiting mild symptoms (Conn.)

So, what would be a good, adequate amount of exercise? Even 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days can contribute to better your mental health, or even breaking it to 10 to 15 minutes each time ( Also, start by doing something you enjoy, as it will help you stay committed. Also, you want to make sure that your goals are reasonable and that what you can do is what you can fit in your schedule. Most importantly, be kind to yourself, and know that making an effort is better than nothing. If you can’t do as many push-ups as somebody you know, so what? I strongly believe that we should be exercising ourselves, and our happiness and following our own exercise goals.

Start small, and be kind to yourself, and every step you take, be proud of yourself.

Written By Chloe Kim

YMHA Contributor


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