Physical health and psychological well-being may seem unrelated. However, these two areas of health are linked in a number of ways. From mild mood disorders to cognitive illnesses, psychological health is greatly affected by physical well-being. The following explores the link between mental and physical health, and includes information on how to improve virtually all areas of well-being.
Psychological Illness and Physical Health
Mental health and physical well-being are related in a variety of ways. First of all, depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders are often symptoms of physical illness or injury. Take, for example, an individual with a broken leg. Decreased mobility and the sudden inability to complete daily tasks can have a major impact on self-esteem and psychological well-being. Therefore, it makes sense that many patients with mobility issues often suffer from depression and anxiety.
The same can be said for patients will heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. The symptoms of these illnesses affect quality of life, which, in turn, leads to symptoms relating to psychological health.
Just as depression can be symptomatic of illnesses and injuries, it can also be the cause of complications to physical health. Many patients with depression report physical ailments like muscle pain, headaches, joint stiffness and more. Depression, anxiety and other psychological conditions can also lead to or worsen complications like high blood pressure, heart disease and substance abuse, and have been shown to shorten lifespan in general.
Cognitive Disorders and Physical Health
The link between exercise and psychological health may extend beyond conditions like depression and anxiety. In fact, as explained by David Lader, psychological counselor and martial arts instructor, exercise may even play a role in preventing memory loss, dementia and other symptoms of cognitive decline in the elderly.
In a study performed on dementia patients, strength and resistance training were shown to improve brain functions relating to memory, planning and attention. Due to these findings, it’s clear that exercises that improve balance and strength can be especially beneficial for individuals either suffering from or at risk for cognitive disorders.
The Benefits of Exercise
Whether poor physical health is the cause or effect of mental illness, exercise can help. In addition to improving physical health, regular workouts increase the brain’s production of serotonin and other “feel good” chemicals. These chemicals improve mood, sharpen mental clarity, regulate sleep and generally boost feelings of calm and well-being. In fact, these chemicals are so effective at relieving psychological distress, prescription antidepressants often emulate their effects on the brain. However, since antidepressant medications can lead to a variety of harmful side effects, exercise is often a better choice, especially in cases of mild or moderate depression.
So, what types of exercise are recommended for the average person suffering from psychological distress?
Well, the answer varies according to several factors. First of all, individual fitness levels should always be taken into consideration, especially when physical illnesses or injuries come into play. Thankfully, there are workouts available that suit nearly any level of fitness. Simple stretches and strength training, for example, can be performed by most people, even when mobility is an issue.
For relatively healthy people, workouts like yoga, walking, swimming, biking or running can improve physical health and significantly reduce the symptoms of psychological illness.