Research shows that about 18% of adults in the United States are suffering from some form of mental health condition. Unfortunately, some of these mental health disorders are not easy to treat. Plus, talk therapy is usually expensive and time-consuming, while other options like medications might cause nasty side effects. Not to forget that most of these treatments don’t prevent mental illnesses from happening in the first place.
However, there is one approach to treating/ preventing mental health illness that is mostly overlooked; exercise! That’s right! According to various studies , physical exercise like treadmill training helps with several mental illnesses including anxiety, bipolar disorders, depression, eating disorders, etc. Even better, exercise is considered the most effective, cheapest, and least disruptive way of managing mental health illnesses.
In this article, I’ll show you how treadmill training can help you fight mental health disorders at home!
Mental health benefits of treadmill training
Walking or running on a treadmill is not a cure-all treatment for mental health disorders. However, it can be very effective at helping people cope with both long- and short-term mental illnesses. Besides, running regularly on a treadmill makes your mind feel better and boosts your overall feelings of happiness. Other mental health effects of treadmill training include:
1. Relieves symptoms of anxiety & depression
Training on a treadmill helps you recover from mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Some studies show that running regularly on a treadmill can have the same effects as medication in reducing the symptoms of anxiety & depression. For that, running is highly recommended during recovery and therapy as it helps to alleviate some symptoms of mental health conditions.
In addition, engaging in physical exercise like treadmill training triggers your nervous system to release happiness chemicals known as endorphins in your body. These chemicals improve your mood while alleviating the signs of mental health conditions. At the same time, treadmill training can increase your brain’s sensitivity to the serotonin and norepinephrine hormones, which are known to reduce the symptoms of stress and depression.
2. Boosts Your Mood
Treadmill running increases blood circulation to your brain and the part that responds to stress. This improves your mood by causing a temporary change that improves how you react to stressful situations.
3. Improves Your Brain Health & Memory
Our memory recall and thought processing speed starts to decline once we reach the age of 30 due to decreased number of information-transmitting neurons and brain cells. As a result, it may take more time to learn new things or remember names at that age than when we were younger.
Interestingly, scientists have established that physical exercise like treadmill training can help to prevent memory loss and improve brain function. To confirm this, a study involving 55 older adults presented their MRI scans for analysis.
The report showed that the fittest participants had more robust brain tissues and fewer reductions in the parietal, frontal and temporal brain parts. Therefore, regular exercise can help to reduce changes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.
Moreover, treadmill training promotes the growth of brain cells by stimulating the production of certain hormones and encourages the hippocampus to grow. This is the part of the brain that handles all activities related to learning & memory.
4. Reduces Stress
Treadmill training triggers your body to release a biochemical substance known as endocannabinoids. This naturally produced chemical floods your blood system and moves into your brain, where it offers short-term feelings of calm and reduced stress.
5. Better Sleep
Running has been shown to improve sleep quality by helping you set a normal sleep schedule. This is because running triggers your body to release chemicals that help you relax during and after the run. As a result, this encourages deep sleeping, which is good for your brain as it enhances your mental health.
How treadmill training helps to alleviate the symptoms of mental illnesses?
As mentioned earlier, exercising on a treadmill may offer a sense of fulfillment and enjoyment. This can enhance your self-esteem and self-efficacy by helping you master new skills.
As for biological mechanisms, treadmill training has been shown to trigger the release of certain chemicals known as endorphins. These ‘feel good’ chemical messengers help alleviate stress and pain during workouts. In addition, treadmill running stimulates the release of other natural chemicals known as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help to regulate our mood. More notably, these are the same chemicals that are targeted by mental illness medications.
On top of that, treadmill workouts help you feel less stressed out by reducing the levels of a stress hormone known as cortisol.
Moving on, physical exercise triggers the release of another important chemical known as BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF is a brain protein that helps the brain grow new cells and maintain the life of the existing ones. People with mental conditions like anxiety and depression have been found to have low levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Thankfully, exercise can help to increase the levels of BDNF in the brain. This helps to improve mood stability, brain function, and general mental well-being.
Walking or running on a treadmill at home for at least 30 minutes 3-5 times a week is a great way to manage various symptoms of mental illnesses. Specifically, it reduces signs of depression, mental tension, stress, and anxiety. So, if you have a treadmill at home, it’s an excellent workout machine to improve your mental health.