Exercise may be the single most important tool in the arsenal against mental illness. Dozens of studies have shown that exercise can reduce symptoms of disorders ranging from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). Some research even suggests that exercise can be as effective at treating depression as an antidepressant.Exercise’s effectiveness may be partially due to its effects on health. It’s easier to be unhappy when you feel sick, and exercise helps to prevent and treat chronic illnesses, in addition to reducing muscle, bone, and joint pain. Intense exercise releases endorphins, powerful feel-good chemicals that can yield a temporary mood boost. Over time, fitness buffs may also see a boost in self-esteem as their bodies change, but doctors aren’t yet fully certain of why or how exercise helps to treat mental illness.
A study found that simply spending more time outside can help reduce symptoms of some mental health conditions. Spending time outside affords people with access to UV light, an important source of vitamin D. It may be that this improves health, thus reducing the risk of mental illness. Moreover, we already know that people with seasonal affective disorder – a form of depression common in the winter – benefit from light therapy, and time spent outdoors offers a more natural alternative to sitting under a sunlamp.