Exercise for mental health

Exercise has many benefits. Whilst its effects on the body are well-known, some note should also be given to the wonders it can do for your mental health.

Being active can stimulate chemicals, like endorphins and serotonin, that improve your mood and the parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning. It can increase your overall happiness and perception of wellbeing.

Regular exercise can reduce your risk of suffering chronic conditions like high blood pressure, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and dementia, amongst other things, giving you greater autonomy over your life for much longer. It can reduce stress levels and symptoms of mental health concerns like anxiety and depression, and can lead to improved sleep, one of the most important factors in maintaining overall good mental health.

There are also some cognitive gains to be made from regular exercise. At a basic level, the increased blood flow inherent to exercise pumps blood to the brain, bringing the oxygen and nutrients needed for healthy brain function. It can increase the size of the hippocampus and can improve the connections between nerve cells in the brain, thus improving memory over time and protecting against disease and injury.

It doesn't take much, either. Just 15 minutes of moderate exercise per day can elicit the above results, helping you to create to a healthier, happier, less stressed version of yourself.

How to form good fitness habits #9- create a master plan

The first thing you need to do when embarking on a fitness regime is to decide to embark on a fitness regime. The second thing you need to do is work out your goals. Then, with your goals in place, the third thing you need to do is come up with a master plan.

If you don't have a plan for your training, consider paying a personal trainer to write you one, or finding any of the hundreds of free, cookie-cutter plans available online for download.

Having this set plan in place means you then don't have to think too much about training. Simply follow the steps you've already laid down and success should be a waiting game. Getting rid of uncertainty will make meeting your goals more certain.

Set specific days and times to train. Choose Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8am, for example, and don't deviate. Set specific times to measure your goals. Set specific weeks when you will have a rest, and ones where you will push yourself to the max. Without the prevarication that comes with uncertainty, you can build this into a habit and make sure it gets done.