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The Health Benefits of Exercise

exercise mental health prevention Feb 23, 2022

Written by David Zecua, a CSU Channel Islands Service-Learning student.

Think about how you feel after you exercise. Aside from some soreness, depending on how intense the session may have been, do you generally feel better about yourself? Physical activity is often talked about as a great way to improve one’s health, and according to the CDC (2021), it has many health benefits including weight management/weight loss, reduced risk of diseases such as certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.  Also, but not limited to strengthened bones and muscles, increased chances of living longer, and simply an improvement in the overall quality of life.

With all the known benefits of physical activity, why is it that a lot of people do not engage in more physical activity? Well, based on my experience, there may be several barriers. According to Robinson, L. (2021), many people do not engage in physical activity due to feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, hopeless, feeling bad about themselves, or feeling pain.

Another factor is that oftentimes in the media, the physical health benefits of physical activity are most emphasized, just like how I emphasized them in the beginning of this post. According to Weir, K. (2011), the issue with emphasizing the physical benefits such as weight loss, lowered cholesterol, or reduced risk of diabetes is that people may develop apathy towards physical benefits that may take months to notice. People may get discouraged from continuing if they do not see results soon enough.  Whereas, the mental health benefits are apparent much sooner than the physical benefits.

According to Robinson, L. (2011), exercise can improve thinking and memory abilities, increase self-esteem, improve sleep, increase energy, improve your ability to cope with stress and emotional challenges, and improve your mood.  All of these would likely be felt near-instantly. Other significant benefits from exercise may include treatment of mild to moderate depression, relief of tension and stress, reduction of ADHD symptoms, including improved concentration, motivation, memory and mood, and treatment of PTSD and trauma.

Therefore, it is important to raise awareness about the mental health benefits of physical activity because such benefits are felt a lot sooner. In my experience when I go out on lengthy walks, I always feel better mentally and it near-instantly improves my mood. It is common and understandable that busyness interferes with the chances of exercise, but the great news is that you do not need to dedicate a ton of time.  ,According to Weir, K. (2011), even a little bit of exercise is better than nothing. You can start bit by bit with 5-10 minute sessions.  As you exercise more, you will feel the benefits of physical activity. That is why physical activity is very important to me. It is more beneficial than it may seem.  I hope that this has been an encouragement to engage in more physical activities.  Even a little more can lead to great health benefits.

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