Physical activity can help strengthen your mental health and resilience.

Get Active for Your Mental Health

By Leisha Ferguson, MS, public health educator, Health Promotion and Wellness Department, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center

Physical activity can help strengthen your mental health and resilience.
Physical activity can help strengthen your mental health and resilience.

It’s that time of year when the days get longer and the temperature gets warmer. Now that you’ve packed away your winter clothing, you may consider getting more exercise to help you get fit for summer. Did you know that physical activity can also help strengthen your mental health and resilience?

Here are five reasons to get active for your mental health:

    1. Improved Quality and Increased Duration of Sleep. People who exercise regularly have more restful sleep and may sleep longer than those who do not regularly engage in physical activity. Try to avoid vigorous exercise right before bed, so you don’t have trouble falling asleep.
    2. Stress Relief. As little as five minutes of aerobic exercise can start to reduce feelings of anxiety.
    3. Better Mood. Engaging in a meaningful activity such as aerobic exercise and completing a workout can give you a sense of accomplishment and enhance your mood. Additionally, as you exercise, your body releases endorphins which are pain-relieving chemicals in your brain that can help boost your mood.
    4.  Improved Memory & Concentration. Aerobic activity increases blood flow and oxygen throughout the body, including your brain, which in turn strengthens brain functioning and improves cognitive abilities
    5. More Energy & Stamina. Invest your energy into a regular exercise routine, and it will help you increase your energy and stamina over time. It takes energy to make energy!

To achieve these psychological benefits, I recommend that you engage in aerobic or a combination of aerobic and muscle strengthening activities three to five days a week for 30 to 60 minutes per session.

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On at least two days each week, adults should also incorporate muscle strengthening exercises that work all major muscle groups.

Get Moving

The Physcial Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. On at least two days each week, adults should also incorporate muscle strengthening exercises that work all major muscle groups.

Are you ready to get moving? Read “Get Active to Be Healthy” for physical activity ideas for all levels of fitness.

Interested in more ways to get active? I encourage you to consider the following:

Take charge of your health! Learn more about what you can do to strengthen your mental health and resilience at Psychological and Emotional Well-being Web page. Identify simple ways that you can lead an active lifestyle by exploring the Physical Fitness Health Promotion Toolbox.