It has long been established that exercise improves physical health. A 30-minute exercise a day can reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart problems. It also makes your bones, muscles, and joints stronger, among other things. But does exercise improve mental health?
A newly published report by emotional support animals (ESA) letter provider Pettable confirmed that exercise does improve mental health. That confirmation is one of the findings of the company’s study on COVID’s effect on mental health in the U.S.
Pettable surveyed 1,500 Americans to find out how their mental health has been impacted by COVID from 2020 to 2022. While there are a number of factors that affect the state of mental health at any given time, survey results show that pandemic-related factors had the greatest negative influence on mental wellness in 2020.
The top reason reported for seeing a decline in mental health was the unpredictability of the pandemic — 55% of the respondents said this negatively affected their mental health. The second top reason was being quarantined, with 51% of the participants reporting that staying at home for long periods of time during the pandemic took a toll on them.
Mental health and exercise during the pandemic
Survey results show a clear correlation between mental health and exercise during the pandemic. Of those that reported an improvement in their mental health during peak COVID (March 2020 – December 2020), 75% exercised for 30 minutes or longer at least a few times a week, if not every day. Additionally, those that exercised every day were 23% more likely to see an improvement in their mental health.
How does exercise improve mental health?
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. Exercise also gets you out in the world, putting you in touch with other people and helping you reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Regular exercise can also reduce stress and symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. For those with existing mental health issues, physical activity can be of great help with their recovery.
Engaging in physical activities also pumps blood to the brain, helping you to think more clearly. Furthermore, exercise strengthens the connections between the nerve cells in the brain and increases the size of the hippocampus, which both improve memory.
Lastly, exercise can also enhance the quality of your sleep, which help with mental health in more ways than one.
Do you love working out while watching your favorite Netflix series? Netflix will soon stream workout videos, thanks to its new partnership with Nike. Find out more here.