How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health – The Amazing Mental Benefits

When I was 18 years old I was diagnosed with a form of bipolar disorder called Cyclothymic disorder.

The high and low moods that come with bipolar are there but not as intense as the more severe bipolar 1 or bipolar 2.

To begin with, the doctors weren’t exactly sure what I was experiencing, at first my belt of depression often came with moments of audible psychosis. That’s right, I was hearing things.

And as an 18-year-old who had only been out of school and on the tools for a few years, this was a pretty traumatic time.

At first, the doctors were focused on treating the voices and the depression so I was put on various antidepressants.

The problem with that is when my manic episodes came in the medications I was on sent that into hyperdrive!

I would come home from work and literally be bouncing around the room.

Try having a conversation with someone who is speaking to you in song while jumping from sofa to arm and back again.

My mom played a big part in the discussion with the medical professionals as she was seeing what I was experiencing.

It was long before I had the correct diagnosis and was placed on mood stabilizers instead.

And this is where the journey really began for me.

First, there was acceptance and then adjustment.

Flybird Fitness

Once I found my baseline the next thing I really wanted was a normal life again.

I knew how much the medication helped me stay balanced but I didn’t want to take medication. 

I knew I could handle this without pills but I needed to learn how.

It was with the help of a psychologist that I started to learn about my early warning signs, my triggers.

And how important it was to have balance in my life.

Balance with exercise, diet, and income seemed to be the big ones for me personally.

So once we narrowed it down to those things my obsession with fitness started.

What Is The Best Exercise For Mental Health?

Sticking with my own personal experiences with this topic, for me, it was running. I would run almost every day.

It was long until I built up to running 6 miles every day of the week and as much as 12 once on the weekend.

That being said regular exercise is the best exercise.

I would have my music on and I would disappear into my thoughts.

There was something so soothing about spending time in my thoughts while I was outdoors, sweating, breathing heavy, my heart rate high.

When you exercise your body releases endorphins, these chemicals set off a chain reaction. Starting with a rush of positive feelings.

It was never long into a run when I started feeling a lot better about myself.

And the combination of the positive feelings my body was realizing and the nostalgia I was getting from listening to all my favorite songs from my past.

There was no way I would get home in a bad mood.

Starting my day like this got me through more than one relatively tricky period in my life.

I struggled with episodes of depression for years.

The manic episodes were a lot easier to see coming and controlling before I got out of hand.

But the depression would sneak up on me, and get me when I was most vulnerable.

So for me to begin, running was the best form of exercise to help with my depression.

But as I got older my goals in life changed, how I saw my body change.

I wasn’t happy with a thin runner’s physique anymore.

And while I had managed to stay off my medication for a few years, depression showed up again at the end of a 3-year relationship.

Now obviously the break-up played a major role in that.

But the difference this time was running wasn’t a solution for me now.

I was happy with a thin physique either.

And being a naturally slim build guy anyway running just wasn’t going to do me any favors.

So I found the weights room and more importantly, through the woman I would eventually marry, I found functional training.

I was building muscle, as well as keeping my heart rate high.

I was getting the best of both worlds and I haven’t looked back.

How I train will always change.

But what will always stay the same is the hunt for those endorphins.

I’ve been off my medication for over 8 years now.

The support of my wife has played its part, balance in my life has played its part, and exercise has played its part.

Exercise is my drug now, it really doesn’t matter what it is.

I don’t need to be the best in the world at anything.

Just give me a challenge.

Regular physical activity is not only good for physical health, preventing things like heart disease and high blood pressure.

It’s going to improve your quality of life, improve energy levels, and release of endorphins which leads to a positive impact on mental wellbeing.

Mental health professionals all swear by the importance of exercise.

Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can lower the risk of depression.

And I’m talking moderate exercise, just going for a walk can play an important role in good mental health.

Is Exercise The Best Cure For Depression?

Again I’m going to stick with my experiences here and I believe that exercise is one of the most effective tools for curing depression.

And it doesn’t have to be any exercise in particular.

Try some new things out. Try everything!

See what makes you feel good.

I’ve tried all sorts over the years. 

  1. Running
  2. Swimming
  3. Cycling
  4. Boxing
  5. Crossfit
  6. BJJ
  7. Calisthenics

Just to name a few.

And friendly competition is going to help you take it a step further.

You can do this on your own or by joining a team sport.

When you train for a specific event you are a lot more focused on your training.

And when you have that goal to work towards you are double-dipping on the endorphins.

You get a high during and after every training session.

And then crossing the line and getting that medal around your neck, nothing compares to that feeling of accomplishment.

The final payoff for months of focus and dedication.

So don’t overthink it.

Go for a run, jump on the bike, go for a walk, get one youtube and follow along with one of millions of workouts just like this one.

The type of exercise you choose is not important.

Focus on increasing the level of physical activity in your exercises routine.

And if you don’t have one yet that’s fine, just starting moving.

Starting with a few walks throughout the week, a healthy body leads to a healthy life which leads to mental clarity and a decrease in mental health problems.

Buying a packet of resistance bands is one of the best things I’ve done for my mental health in the last few years.

Now anytime I go away I can take my gym with me and get whatever workout I feel doing, anywhere in the world.

Take it from me, someone with experience in the matter.

What exercise you do doesn’t matter, as long as you enjoy doing it.

If you can make it work for your other goals even better.

Exercises benefits on healthy living are still there with recreational activities as well, I can’t stress enough the importance of moving.

What Foods Improve Mental Health?

As well as the mental health benefits of exercise we need to look at the other part of your routine that can have a profound effect on the brain chemicals that can help reduce symptoms of mental health conditions, your diet.

Eat as many whole foods as you can when you eat out of a packet you are eating products.

Just flip the box over and read the ingredients and tell me how many of those words you understand.

Just like the release of chemicals like endorphins has a profound positive effect on our mental health.

What do we really know about the added chemicals in food and what they are doing to our bodies?

There’s more and more research linking processed foods to all sorts of diseases and health issues.

So why wouldn’t those same foods cause chemical imbalances in our brain?

We need to start treating our bodies like the highly sophisticated machines that they are.

Fuel your body with the stuff it really needs.

That’s not to say you can’t have some treats and junk from time to time, but we need to be eating more fruit and veggies than we do now.

So next time you go to the grocery store, stick to the outside, the fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and dairy, and whole grains.

The food!

All you’ll find in the isles are products in brightly colored boxes and packets.

Here are the most important foods to have for a healthy mental diet:

  1. Low GI carbohydrates like starchy vegetables or brown rice will give you the energy you need to fuel your workouts. Quinoa, sweet potatoes and legumes have more nutrients by a long way than any highly processed carbs loaded with added sugars.
  2. Clean and lean proteins like chicken, fish, meat, eggs, seeds and nuts. Avoid processed cold cut meats. Remember to keep it as organic as you can. Avoid anything that’s been through any sort of chemical process.
  3. Healthy fats and going to keep your brain and nervous system functioning properly. So eat plenty of Salmon, avocado, olive oils, nuts and seeds.

So there we have it, a bit about my history with mental health and how I overcame it sprinkled with some useful information as well.

So to get yourself started get yourself a copy of my EBook Train Wherever The F*ck You Want it’ll have you get you started on your new fitness journey.