Exercising can help improve your body and mind, mental health expert says

Exercising can help improve your body and mind, mental health expert says Click here to view original web page at www.elpasotimes.com

Exercise is being shown to alter children's brain structure for the better. Newslook

Mental health is an important part of everyone’s life. It shapes how we think, feel and act when we’re alone and when we interact with the environment. Many times, when we think of mental health, we focus on an illness or a condition, but just like our physical well-being, we all vary in mental healthiness. Much like physical health, mental health requires regular maintenance.

Exercise is good for the body, but did you know it is also good for the mind? While many praise the physical benefits of working out, decades of research indicate that it also can improve an individual’s mental health. In fact, exercise has great benefits for cognitive processes and emotions, and can even protect the brain from premature aging.

The saying goes that “exercise will make you feel great.” Research on exercise and mental health backs this statement, especially for individuals with a mental health condition. In a systematic review of studies on mental health treatment and exercise, Georgia Stathopoulou, Ph.D., and colleagues at Boston University found that people who coupled exercise with treatment enjoyed better mental health outcomes than those who did not. Working out can even help improve a person’s ability to cope with stress and function better at school and work.

Getting started on a moderate or vigorous exercise regimen is best in consultation with your doctor. One of the best ways to get started exercising for your mental health is to do the things you love and focus on the good feelings it brings you. Exercise is anything from taking a stroll to your favorite places, dancing to your favorite songs, playing with your pet, or turning down the lights and stretching and breathing.

The standard recommendation is that exercise should last 15 to 30 minutes to reap the benefits. Nevertheless, the key to exercise for your mental health is to maximize the “feel-good” benefits, not stress on reaching a specific time. If you can only muster a 2-minute burst of energy, that is OK. When you are ready, you will increase it, and your overall health will reap the benefits.

Challenge yourself to increase your exercise time and intensity. After a challenging day, reward yourself. A walk followed by a long, hot shower or snuggling with your pet can improve your mood or find a support group or partner to enjoy exercising with. Your mental health will thank you.

The National Association on Mental Illness reports one in five adults experience a mental health condition each year. If you are experiencing a mental health condition, it is OK to reach out for help. To be a part of changing the conversation around mental health, check out the Texas “Okay to Say” campaign at okaytosay.org.

Remember, mental health is something everyone can maintain and improve — and exercise is an important activity that provides mental benefits for everyone to enjoy. Take the first steps to improve your mental health and invite others to join you.

Eden Hernandez Robles, Ph.D., MSW, is director of Empower Change, Paso del Norte Center for Mental and Emotional Well-being. Hernandez Robles can be reached at erobles9@utep.edu and 747-7986.

Where to get help

Empower Change: Paso del Norte Center for Mental and Emotional Well-being is a backbone organization from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation that works with community partners to decrease the negative bias associated with mental illness and improve access to quality mental and behavioral health services in the region.

If you need mental health services, contact the following:

National Alliance on Mental Illness-El Paso — 778-5726; namiep.org

Veterans Crisis Line — 800-273-8255, Press 1

Crisis Text Line — Text – 741741

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