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Physical Activity and Your Mental Health

Physical Activity for Your Mental Health

Regular exercise and physical activity can help reduce your risk of many common women's health concerns - such as heart disease or breast cancer. But staying active has additional benefits beyond your physical health. Studies show numerous benefits to your mental health too.


Whether you're looking for a way to regulate feelings of stress or want to boost your overall sense of well-being, adding physical activities that you enjoy into your daily routine can help. Get to know some of the benefits of physical activity for mental health, how to choose the right exercises for you, and when to talk to your doctor for more support.



Benefits of exercise on mental well-being


Researchers have performed hundreds of studies to understand the different connections between exercise and mental health. Some of the benefits to physical activity for your mind and mood include:

  • Manage stress - A survey from the American Psychological Association asked adults who walked or exercised with the purpose of managing stress about its effectiveness. More than 60% reported that it was very effective or extremely effective in helping them regulate stress.
  • Reduce risk of depression and anxiety - When compared to people who do not exercise, those who do exercise regularly have a lower risk of depression. A study in JAMA Psychiatry found that even those who only got half the recommended amount of physical activity still had a lower risk of this common mental health condition.
  • Improves sleep - Studies show that exercise is an important part of sleep health. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, people who reported participating in any exercise during the last month were one-third less likely to say they had sleep problems.
  • Increases focus and memory - Exercise may help keep your mind sharp, especially as you age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says studies show that cognitive decline was nearly twice as common in people who were inactive than those who were active.



Types of exercise to improve mental health


Many types of physical activity are a good choice to boost your mental well-being. The type of exercises you choose depends on your overall fitness level and health goals - as well as what type of activities you enjoy. Often, it helps to pick a few different types of physical activities to incorporate into your exercise routine, keeping you engaged and active year-round.


Some ideas include:

  • Walking, jogging, or running
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Gardening
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Resistance and strength training
  • Boxing
  • Martial arts
  • Hiking



Get even more support for your mental health


While exercise is a great way to care for your mental health, it's only one tool. Talk with your health provider before using exercise to manage mental well-being, especially when your mental health symptoms get in the way of coping with the ups and downs of everyday life. A health professional can listen to your symptoms and get the source of the problem.


From postpartum depression to changes in mood related to menopause, your OB GYN is also ready to help support your mental health through every stage of life. When you're having mental health concerns, don't be afraid to speak up at your OB GYN visit. Your provider is there to connect you with the care you need.


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