As many as 50 million people in the U.S. lead sedentary lives, which puts them at a risk for heart disease and obesity. This fact is frequently displayed in the media, yet one consequence of ‘lazy life’ is often overlooked, its effect on mental health.
A study on 1.2 million people in the U.S. published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal found that people who exercise have 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health a month.
The biggest stress reducers are team sports, cycling, aerobics, and going to the gym, all of which can not only help keep you lean and fit, but also boost your happiness and wellbeing.
What is the Winning Combination? In the above mentioned study, researchers stated that “Exercise is associated with a lower mental health burden across people no matter their age, race, gender, household income and education level.” They also found that the biggest gains in mental health were made by those who exercised between three and five times a week, and those who exercised for 30 to 60 minutes.
Mental health improvements were also seen in those who worked out for over 90 minutes a day, but those who exercise for over three hours daily showed generally poorer mental health than those who did not exercise at all.
How To Have Healthy Body and a Healthy Mind:
High Intensity Exercise vs Time Constraints.
Arguably the most oft-uttered reason for not heading to the gym regularly or exercising outdoors is ‘a lack of time.’ However, modern gyms offer a host of classes lasting between 45 minutes and one hour that can provide the exercise needs of adults while working out various parts of the body.
The high intensity regime CrossFit is one of these fast, high impact workouts that’s all the rage not only in the United States but across the globe. It essentially combines a combination of aerobic and strength exercises, including weightlifting. High intensity interval training (HIIT) has also been found to wield specific benefits.
A 2019 study undertaken at McMaster University, for instance, found that HIIT improved memory in older adults. Researchers also found that improvements in fitness as a whole were directly linked to improved memory performance, making high intensity exercise a great option for optimal physical and mental benefits.
Diet is Key As Well.
Exercise has been found in study after study to lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol, and to help reduce symptoms of common mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
However, health also depends on diet and recent studies show the big impact that what you eat can have on how you feel.
In February 2019, the first ever population level study on the relationship between gut bacteria and mental health showed that the presence or absence of specific gut bacteria has a big effect on mental health and quality of life. In persons with depression, for instance, levels of two bacteria in particular, coprococcus and dialister, are depleted.
Building a Healthy Gut Microbiome.
In order to build a wide variety of healthy bacteria in the gut, consuming a fiber rich, Mediterranean style diet is key.
Fiber is important for the growth of healthful bacteria, since it provides a kind of network upon which they can thrive.
Fiber rich foods also keep you satiated for longer, thus helping you avoid giving into cravings for refined, sugary foods that can cause mood and energy swings.
Many studies carried out over the past decade have shown the vital connection between what you eat, how active you are, and mental wellbeing. Exercise not only keeps stress hormone levels down, but also provides you with a chance to get active in the Great Outdoors, which has been found to quell stress. Pay heed to your diet as well, ensuring you build a healthy gut microbiome through a Mediterranean style diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, and soon you will reap the benefits of both a healthy body and mind.