The Link between Exercise and Mental Health

May is mental health awareness month, let’s all strive to be better and help one another.

Even a quick hike with your family can contribute to your mental wellness.

Humans are social creatures.

If we learned anything from the COVID pandemic, it’s that isolation and uncertainty intensify underlying mental health issues that more than a fifth of American’s live with every day.

Yes, 20% of US citizens experience mental illness.

We know about it, we have some treatment for it, so why is Mental Health Awareness Month such a big deal?

We must continue to advocate for mental health as:

  • Mental illness is still stigmatized. We wear glasses to see clearly; we use mental healthcare to think clearly.
  • Mental illness is still ignored. It’s easy to see injuries or illnesses of the body; not so much of the mind.
  • Mental illness is still underfunded. Healthcare in the US has come a long way in recent decades; but there is less of a focus on mental healthcare.

What can you do about it?  If you struggle, you can dampen the effects of the illness through exercise.

Exercise relieves depression.  15 minutes of daily exercise reduces the risk of depression; endorphins are natural chemicals that make you feel better.

Exercise reduces anxiety.  Anxiety can be caused by over-thinking situations; focusing on the exercise takes your mind off whatever is bringing the anxiety.

Exercise fights ADHD.  Physical activity creates dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin; these three chemicals improve focus and attention.

There are many, many more benefits; the bottom line is that we can all benefit from more exercise.

Start where you are, and add a tiny new habit each day.  It can be as simple as doing a single pushup, walking for a few minutes, or standing instead of sitting.

Start small and you’re more likely to stick with it.

Yours in health,

Hayley Miller MD

One more thing!

Community is one of the best ways to keep your mind functioning at a healthy level.  Here are a couple of events in May that you can attend with friends to keep that mind in peak performance mode.

Backcountry Brewfest: Missoula has more craft breweries than anywhere else in the state!  Enjoy a pint with friends over at Caras Park; May 13th, from 5pm to 9pm.  More details here.

TGIF Mountain Bike League: Every Friday from May 13th to June24th you can get out and ride with friends!  Discover the world, get some exercise, and see if you can win the race.  More details here.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Rendezvous: The North American Rendezvous hosted by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. The biggest party of the year will be held May 12-14, at Fort Missoula  More details here.