Mental and Physical Health: What’s the Connection?

You may think of your physical health as separate from your mental health. In reality, the two are connected. We know it’s not always easy to take care of your mental health. But having mental health problems can lead to physical health problems, and vice versa. In fact, 50-75% of those living with persistent pain also experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.* So when you take care of your physical health with movement, you also take care of your mental health. In this article, we’ll discuss a few ways they’re linked.

Anxiety Relief

Anxiety affects everyone differently. Maybe you’ve only experienced anxiety in specific situations like an upcoming presentation, interview, or a big event. Or maybe you have a natural disposition to ongoing anxiety. Regardless, exercise can help. Just one bout of exercise can help reduce anxiety even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder. And the more active you are, the greater the anxiety-reducing benefits are.

Stress Reduction

Stress is a part of life and there’s no way to avoid it altogether. But not all stress is bad! It’s true that stressful situations can cause an increased heart rate, muscle tension, and the release of stress hormones. But some stress ‒ like exercise ‒ actually makes you feel more alert and energized. While exercise is a form of stress, it’s a good stress. Regular exercise helps train your body to better cope with stressful and difficult life events.

Improved Cognitive Function

Have you ever experienced a time when movement helped to clear your head? Maybe you had a problem at work that you weren’t making progress on. But upon returning to your desk after a short walk, you were able to look at the problem differently. This isn’t a coincidence! Studies show that one bout of exercise can boost creativity and improve concentration, helping you to tackle problems.

Better Sleep

Exercise works to improve sleep in several ways. First, exercise tires you out physically, which increases your drive to sleep. It also increases levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate sleep. And because stress and worries tend to keep people up at night, the reduction in stress that exercise provides promotes better sleep. While getting better sleep doesn't necessarily mean you’ll be more active, the more well-rested you are, the more energy you will have to maintain your exercise routine!

We all have to work to take care of our mental health. And physical and mental health are not independent of each other. If you ever feel too busy to attend to both, try giving your body the movement it craves. You can take care of mind and body at the same time with your favorite physical activity!

* For more information on exercise and depression, ask your coach to send you 'Depression and Physical Activity' and 'How Exercise Improves Mood.'

Key Takeaways

  1. Mental health isn’t always prioritized, but we all have mental health to care for.

  2. Physical and mental health are not independent of each other.

  3. When you take steps to improve your physical health with exercise, you actively take care of your mental health as well.


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