Staying Active for Mental Health

Feb 17, 2020 | Family Resources

We all love those days when we wake up feeling optimistic and motivated. The sun seems to shine more, we have plenty of patience and life is good.

Then there are those other days. Gloom seems to follow for no good reason and it’s nearly impossible to muster any enthusiasm.

So what’s the difference?

There are many factors that come into play for good mental health (such as social ties and nutrition). But one that is often overlooked is activity level.

You know how, when you’re feeling low, you also feel like lying low? The last thing you want to do is go for a walk, tidy the house or get a workout in. Water aerobics or a tai chi class? No thanks. It’s just easier to hit the coach with a glass of wine and the remote. In fact, that sounds pretty good.

But that’s exactly the wrong plan.

And that’s because research increasingly shows that staying active is one of the keys to good mental health. In other words, we get moving and our mood improves.

We can thank our neurotransmitters for the mood boost, specifically dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine helps us feel motivated, while serotonin keeps us happy, calm and focused. There are a slew of other ways, too, that mood benefits from movement, many of which are still being researched and are not fully understood. (One theory, for example, is exercise results in a spike of cortisol that primes us to better handle the stresses of life.)

But the simple fact remains that being active makes us feel better.

Athletes already know what to do. Put those sneakers on and hit the fitness center. But what about the rest of us?

Experts agree that walking is one of the simplest and best exercises for everyone. How often and how far depends on several factors, and not everyone may be able to do the recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise. The point is that any kind of movement is beneficial.

“Move more and sit less,” is how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it.

Maybe that means starring in a TikTok video with your grandson. (It’s the latest social media craze and often involves dancing). Or maybe it’s making sure to get up during every commercial and do some light stretching. Water the garden. Hit the putting green. Fold the laundry.

It all adds up to feeling good.

It’s still nice to enjoy that glass of wine on the couch, by the way. Just make it a reward for an active day — and remember to get up during the commercials.

At The Blake, it’s our mission to help you have more of those days where you wake up feeling great — and stay that way all day. We do that through things like chef-prepared meals, light filled communities and greenspaces. But we’re especially proud of our customized wellness programs. Let us help you develop a plan to get moving — and feeling great.

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