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How can exercise help your mental health?

There probably isn't a person in the world who doesn't know that exercise is good for their body, but did you know that exercise has a positive effect on your mental well-being? That's why we want to give you a very concise overview of how exercise works not only your physical muscles, but also your mental ones.

What is mental health?

Mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well-being, which influence the way we think, feel and act. Mental health is a state of psychological well-being in which a person can develop and fulfil his or her potential, make a positive contribution to his or her own and others' lives, build relationships and cope with everyday stressful situations. We need it at all stages of our lives, from babyhood to old age, so mental health needs to be looked after as carefully as physical health.

Do something active!

When we say do something active, we mean being active not only physically, but also mentally and socially. Maybe you run a couple of times a week, go to the gym, go for long walks or play football with friends. Many people forget about it or don't even think it's important, but during physical activity it's important to establish healthy relationships with other people - for example at the gym or at football practice. Why? We'll tell you in a minute!

How does exercise affect your mental health?

It may seem like you have to do a lot to maintain good mental health, but in fact you can kill two birds with one stone because:

  • If you work out in the gym, you can be physically and socially active at the same time. (There's a reason why people often bring their friends to work out.)
  • If you do yoga, for example, you can be physically and mentally active at the same time, because it trains your body's flexibility and concentration, and often includes elements of spiritual meditation.
  • Cultivating relationships with other people in the gym or on the football team creates a sense of community and belonging that even the toughest of men need in life.
  • During physical activity, dopamine and endorphins are released in our brains, which have a positive effect on our well-being, so that over time we will not only feel better, but also feel a physical need to exercise regularly.

The benefits of exercise for mental health (and beyond)

Did you know that regular exercise can prevent mild anxiety? Studies have shown that the first 15-20 minutes after exercise are the most effective in reducing anxiety, but this effect persists for up to 4 hours after exercise. Regular exercise also helps fight depression and stress. This is because different chemical reactions take place in our brains during exercise, and a physically active lifestyle also improves our self-esteem, memory and ability to learn. Exercising regularly increases the number of connections between brain cells, which allows the brain to stay young for longer. In addition, your body will give you other "bonuses" from regular exercise: reduced fatigue after work, increased sexual energy, a stronger immune system, better sleep, better mood and, of course, a feeling of happiness. Regular exercise also helps to significantly reduce the risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Regular exercise strengthens the heart so that at rest the heart rate drops (it takes fewer heartbeats to pump the same amount of blood), which means that in the long run your heart will be spared.

What happens when you exercise?

When you exercise, your brain and the rest of your body go through processes that produce and release different substances and hormones. Some of these include:

  • Endorphins, which improve your mood, give you a feeling of happiness and reduce your sensitivity to pain.
  • Dopamine, which acts as a neurotransmitterin the human brain and when we exercise, it encourages us to do it again. This substance creates positive emotions in the body and influences the brain's reward system. An increase in dopamine receptors can be observed after just eight weeks of exercise - provided that you exercise three times a week and for at least an hour each time.
  • Serotoninwhich gives a feeling of happiness and good mood, helps regulate sleep cycles and makes people feel calm.
  • Adrenalinewhich stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and makes you less sensitive to pain.

It is not for nothing that Latvians have a saying: a healthy body is a healthy spirit!

If you or someone you love is suffering from mental health problems, don't be afraid to seek professional help, because only when we take care of our psychological well-being are we able to take care of our physical well-being more effectively.
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