Contributor: Keegan Bradford for Aging.com
Exercise not only helps us thrive with diabetes but can also positively impact our mental well-being. In fact, exercise can improve mental health in five distinct ways:
- Reduction in Stress and Anxiety - Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Regular physical activity can help release tension from the body and mind while providing an outlet for releasing negative emotions. Exercise can help increase endorphins in our body; these hormones improve mood and act as natural painkillers. Additionally, physical activity can provide a distraction from worries and anxieties associated with chronic illness and can be a great way to take a break from day-to-day life.
- Improved Self-Esteem and Confidence - Exercise can be a great way to boost self-esteem and confidence. Regular physical activity can help us build strength, coordination, and flexibility. This can lead to improved overall body image and increased self-perception, which is beneficial for mental health. Setting achievable goals and achieving them is one of the best ways to boost self-esteem.
- Improved Cognitive Performance - Regular physical activity can also help with better cognitive performance. Exercise has been shown to improve memory, increase attention spans, and stimulate mental alertness.
- Enhanced Mood Regulation and Sleep Quality - Regular physical activity helps regulate hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which can positively affect our mood. Exercise has also been linked to better quality sleep, as it increases our body’s core temperature during exercise, which helps create a more restful sleep environment. When paired with other healthy habits, such as avoiding caffeine late in the day and maintaining regular bedtimes, exercise can help us get the rest we need to function at our best.
- Increased Social Connections - Exercise is a great way to interact with others and build relationships, as it brings people together in shared activities and encourages conversation. Studies have shown that physical activity can improve self-confidence, which can help us feel more comfortable engaging in social situations. Exercise can also be used to connect with family members or peers who share the same interests. For those feeling socially isolated, regular physical activity is the boost we need to get out of our shells and connect with others on a deeper level.
It is clear that exercise has many benefits when it comes to improving mental health. The ability to reduce stress levels, build self-esteem and foster social connections are just some ways that participating in regular physical activity can benefit our mental health as well as our diabetes management.
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Keegan Bradford is an editor, writer, and educator living in Portland, OR. His time as a teacher led him to working with students with special needs, work that he continues as a peer support specialist for adults with autism. When not at his desk, Keegan can be found walking his dog or playing guitar.