Improving sleep and mental health with one lifestyle change: exercise.
Exercise has numerous benefits for our physical health, but it also plays a crucial role in our mental well-being. Studies have shown that regular exercise can improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. In this article, we’ll explore the effects of exercise on sleep and mental health and provide some proven methods for finding exercises that bring you joy.
Effects of Exercise on Sleep
Insufficient sleep can have negative effects on our physical and mental health, leading to a range of issues such as increased risk for disease, weakened muscles, bones, and immune system, and mood disturbances. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality by increasing the amount of deep sleep we get. This, in turn, reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and decreases the number of times we wake up during the night.
A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that a 30-minute moderate-intensity exercise session in the morning improved the sleep quality of adults with chronic insomnia. Additionally, a meta-analysis of 23 studies showed that regular exercise resulted in significant improvements in sleep quality. The most significant improvements seen in individuals with insomnia.
Effects of Exercise on Mental Health
Exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s believed that exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural feel-good chemicals that can boost our mood and reduce stress levels.
A review of 49 studies found that exercise had a moderate-to-large effect on reducing symptoms of depression. The analysis showed that the greatest benefits were seen in those who exercised for at least 30 minutes per session, three to five times per week. Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that aerobic exercise reduced anxiety symptoms in individuals with high levels of anxiety.
Finding Exercises that Bring You Joy
Finding an exercise routine that brings you joy is crucial for sticking with it long-term. Here are some methods for finding exercises that you enjoy:
- Experiment with different activities: Try out a variety of activities, such as hiking, swimming, yoga, or dancing, to find what you enjoy most. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
- Make it social: Exercising with friends or joining a fitness class can make the experience more enjoyable and motivating.
- Set achievable goals: Setting realistic goals, such as running a certain distance or lifting a certain weight, can give you a sense of accomplishment and help you stay motivated.
- Focus on the process, not the outcome: Don’t get too caught up in the end result. Instead, focus on the process of exercising and how it makes you feel.
- Make it a habit: Incorporate exercise into your daily routine, such as going for a walk during your lunch break or doing yoga before bed. This can help make it a habit and part of your lifestyle.
Regular exercise has numerous benefits for our physical and mental health, including improved sleep quality and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. By finding exercises that bring us joy, we can incorporate physical activity into our daily routine. This will enable us to reap the benefits of a healthier body and mind.
- Kredlow, M. A., Capozzoli, M. C., Hearon, B. A., Calkins, A. W., & Otto, M. W. (2015). The effects of physical activity on sleep: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 38(3), 427-449.
- Kalak N, Gerber M, Kirov R, Mikoteit T, Yordanova J, Pühse U, Holsboer-Trachsler E, Brand S. Daily morning running for 3 weeks improved sleep and psychological functioning in healthy adolescents compared with controls. J Adolesc Health. 2012 Dec;51(6):615-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.02.020. Epub 2012 May 1. PMID: 23174473.