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Exercising to Improve your Mental Health - Does it Work?

by Flavia Vaduva - May 28, 2019 at 8:33 PM

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Have you heard of CrossFit®? How about Orangetheory®, Beachbody®, aerial yoga  or Couch to 5K? While all of these workout programs are different, there is one major similarity: they can all improve mental health.

As a veterinary medical professional, you’re probably wondering - what’s the science behind this concept? Well, it has been proven that exercising releases endorphins. It can also stimulate the release of other important mood altering neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.[4]

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As a result, there are many known cognitive benefits to exercising. An article from Harvard Business Review lists the following benefits:

  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Faster learning
  • Prolonged mental stamina
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Lower stress[3]

While exercise in general is beneficial, are some more beneficial than others when it comes to improving mental health? Some sources say yes. It has been stated that running, boxing, pilates, yoga, spin classes and resistance training are the best for improving mood and reducing anxiety and depression.[1]

Not all exercise has to be in the format of a workout program though. Even a simple activity like dog walking can be great for your mental health. In fact, an article in Psychology Today states that, “[r]esearch has shown that being around a dog can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and dampen other physiological stress responses.”[2]

So maybe now that you’re convinced you should look into a workout routine or take your pup for a walk routinely - the next question is, for how long? According to the Department of Health and Human Services:

  • “At least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread this exercise throughout the week.”[3]

Whether you prefer group classes, dog walking or workout programs, it does seem that many types of exercise really can improve mental health.

Got some favorite exercise tips? Share them below!

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References:

  1. 6 best exercise classes for mental health. Netdoctor. 
  2. Andrews, L.W., “Dog Walking Has Psychological Benefits for You.” Psychology Today. 
  3. Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity. Mayo Clinic. 
  4. Exercise, Depression and the Brain. Healthline.
  5. Freidman, Ron. “Regular Exercise Is Part of Your Job.” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/10/regular-exercise-is-part-of-your-job
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About Flavia Vaduva

Flavia Vaduva is a general practice Veterinarian and a blogger for VetTechPrep. She has a passion for veterinary medicine, education and business management. She really enjoys interacting with veterinary students and veterinary professionals. She spends her free time riding horses and traveling to explore new places!

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