Staying active and getting regular exercise is something we all know we should do, but it can be tough to find the motivation to get moving, especially during the colder, darker months. However, the benefits of exercise are too important to ignore, particularly when it comes to our mental health. In fact, research shows that aerobic exercises like walking, biking, running, dancing, and swimming can be just as effective at relieving symptoms of depression as antidepressant medication.
Studies also show that the benefits of exercise go beyond just mental health. A 2019 study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that taking as little as a 15-minute walk or jogging three times a week can be effective in relieving depression symptoms. Another study showed that participants who moved more throughout the day scored higher on memory and thinking tests, and increased physical activity was associated with a 31% reduced risk of dementia.
The recommended amount of exercise is a minimum of 150 minutes per week, but the good news is that it’s the cumulative effect of exercise over a week that benefits us, rather than exercising for long periods of time. That means that taking small steps, like getting off the bus a stop earlier or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can add up and count towards our weekly exercise goals.
It’s easy to make excuses and put off exercise, but the benefits for our mental and physical health are too great to ignore. By making small changes and being consistent, we can improve our overall well-being and protect our brain health in the long term. So, next time you find yourself tempted to skip a workout, remember that every step counts towards a healthier you.
1. Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). More evidence that exercise can boost mood. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood.
2. Mortimer, J. A., & Stern, Y. (2019). Physical exercise and activity may be important in reducing dementia risk at any age. Neurology, 92(8), 362-363. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000006935.