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2024 Mental Health Awareness Week

As Mental Health Awareness Week approaches, it’s important to remember the significant impact that physical activity can have on our mental well-being. The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is “0.08 Move More for Your Mental Health,” highlighting the intrinsic link between physical well-being and mental health.

We’ve all experienced that rush of euphoria after a good workout or the sense of calm that comes from a walk in nature. But have you ever wondered how exactly exercise affects our mental health on a physiological level? In this blog, we’ll explore the role of hormones in regulating our mood and how moving more can benefit our mental health.

Our bodies produce a variety of hormones that play a key role in our well-being, including endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These “feel-good” hormones regulate our reward pathway, intimacy, and tolerance to pain. On the other hand, hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine help us cope with stressful situations by raising our blood sugar and heart rate in preparation for fight or flight.

The complex network of glands known as the endocrine system controls these hormones and helps us maintain internal balance, or homeostasis, in the face of everyday challenges. However, chronic exposure to stress can lead to an excessive allostatic load, diminishing our ability to adapt and making us more vulnerable to mental and physical health issues.

Research has shown that exercise can help increase our resilience, reduce vulnerability, and improve our mental health. Studies have found that activities like yoga, which focus on breath, movement, and touch, can help regulate the autonomic nervous system and improve heart rate variability. This can have a positive impact on our thinking, feeling, and stress response.

In fact, a systematic review of randomized control trials found that exercise has moderate effects on depression, either alone or in combination with other treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy. The intensity of exercise prescribed also plays a role, with vigorous activity showing better results.

So, whether it’s yoga, running, strength training, or any other form of exercise, moving more can have a positive impact on your mental health. By understanding the role of hormones and the physiological benefits of exercise, you can take proactive steps to improve your well-being.

As we continue to raise awareness about mental health in the workplace and beyond, let’s remember the power of movement in promoting overall wellness. Join us in prioritizing your mental health by incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine.

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