Exercise Benefits for Physical and Mental Health
Everyone knows that exercise helps your physical health and can help you lose weight, but is that the most important part of exercise? The more research that is done on overall health we are finding that exercise doesn’t just help your physical health, but also can help release stress, help your immune system, improve mental health, and help impact the body in almost every way. There is more to it than just going out and running or lifting weights and if you’re not careful you may end up hurting yourself more. In this paper I’ll cover a few different ways that exercising can benefit someone, along with what to watch out for to make sure one doesn’t cause more in the long run to their body. This paper well focuses on four aspects of working and running on the body. I’ll be looking at the overall health benefits, pre-workout and diet benefits, recovery along with heat issues, and impact of stress in one’s life.
The benefits to exercise can be seen as a non- pharmaceutical approach to stress and anxiety (Szabo & Abaham, 2013). The key to this approach is how the person sees the exercise being done. If the person is looking forward to the workout then they well feel less stress and anxiety after it is finished. In the long run people still get the physical benefits of the exercise, but may not find any decrease in their stress levels. Another approach to stress and working out is that even though people may not feel less stressed after working out for short times, they may be able to handle stress better and recover from it quicker the more they work out (Hsu et al., 2016). Hsu and his colleagues researched two groups of rats, one with moderate exercise and another with no exercise, and found that they both could exercise the same about of time, but in the long run the rats with moderate exercise would recover faster. With everything in life, there are limits along with choices that can change how exercise can work towards stress.
When someone starts to push themselves to hard or not eating the right foods for the type of exercise they are doing they may change the bacteria in the gut which in turn can cause depression and anxiety (Allison & Clark 2016). Allison and Clark found a correlation in the amount of exercise professional athletes along with the type of foods they ate effected the gut bacteria, which in turn may be tied to depression, anxiety, and performance. It’s important to work out and exercise, but you need to also eat healthy and give the body time to rest before the benefits can kick in. Besides having healthier gut bacteria, the more people exercise the stool spends less time in the gastrointestinal tract with allows less time for it to be in contact with pathogens with the mucus layer which helps decrease cancer risk and other health problems (Bermon, el al., 2015). Besides the gut benefits there is also benefits to the immune system with an increase in leukocytes (Peaks, Neubauer, Walsh, & Simpson, 2017). Peaks et al found that leukocytes had increase in the body after a workout and even during the recover stages once the body was starting to rest and a decrease in lymphocyte.
Exercise can help overall brain health by releasing more serotonin in the brain (Meeusen, Piacentini, & De Meirleir, 2001). In their research they found that rats had a higher level of serotonin in their brains after they finished running, but the levels did go back down to normal after an hour during recover. Long exposure to exercise may lead to more releasing of serotonin, which could help people that have problems with neurotransmitters not giving or getting enough serotonin in the brain. Meesuen et al. (2001) did make the statement that using their method may need to be tested further due to variables that they could not control using their technique. Another finding on their experiment found that on top of more serotonin being released another benefit of exercise is that the brain releases more chemicals overall and that the neurotransmitters become more active. Another study (Szabo & Abraham, 2013) shows the same benefits of increased serotonin, but also in increase in dopamine and noradrenergic levels also when people exercised. What is interesting is that their study found that long as your exercising the intensity of the exercise isn’t as important.
A problem that may come up is the issue of the temperature when exercise is taken place and how it can affect the mind. A study that was put together (Roelands, Pauw, & Meeusen, 2015) looked into how the heat may affect the mind and fatigue in general on the body. In their research they looked at how the during low to moderate levels of exercise showed no real effect on the mind or body compared to lower temperatures, but once the subjects started to take part in heavy activity they noticed a drop in mental and physical ability. During their research they found that it’s important to push yourself to what is comparable to what your own body can handle and slowly work your way up in activity.
Some of the more well-known benefits of exercise are how it can affect the body, but if not done careful it can lead to some major lifelong problems. When researchers looked into how different stretches can help runners and how long the stretch should take place (Baxter, Naughton, Sparks, Norton, &Bentley, 2017). Their findings found that static stretch that put tension on the muscle for 30 seconds and then slowly release can help with flexibility, but they are not sure how long the person needs to do the stretches to get the full affect. It should be noted that during their findings using a static stretch longer than 30 seconds did not give any extra benefit. On the flip they did look into how stretching for long distance runners didn’t help, but hurt their performance. The idea is that stiff muscles gave more impact absorption in the knees and legs, which helped give overall better performance for long runs. Their findings also looked at how professional runners were stiffer then their amateur running partners.
One of the last things that can benefit someone is their overall happiness and life satisfaction. A major factor that can help support all these changes in someone’s overall health is their diet choices. When researchers tested Quality of Life of long distance runners and their diet they found that there wasn’t much of a different in overall scores from those that used omnivores or vegan meal choices (Bolt, el at., 2018). As long as both groups practiced and took in the right amount of protein and minerals their performance showed close to the same results.
As for Quality of Life, research has also found that running in groups can help with mental health for woman along with community connectedness for men (Grunseit, Richards, & Merom, 2017). When they looked at surveys from people that took part in a park runner event in Australia found that men had more of a benefit from being connected to the community more so then woman. Women showed in increase with mental health along with physical health more so then men. No matter how you look at it physical health goes beyond just the health of the body, but the health of the mind as well.