The Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) is raising awareness on the benefits of exercise, not only on individuals’ physical health, but also on their mental health. Exercising helps improve one’s mood, increase concentration, reduce stress and depression, improves sleep habits, increase self-confidence and self-reliance, and improve leadership skills.
“There is a strong relation between one’s mental state and the exercise performed," Dr Lamya Salah al-Din al-Shafi, general practitioner at PHCC’s Omar Bin Al Khattab Health Centre.
"If you want to feel happy and relaxed, you should practise various physical activities such as walking, swimming, cycling, etc., as physical activity triggers a release of chemicals in the brain like dopamine and serotonin, which make you feel happy and relaxed,” she explained.
Numerous studies have proven that engaging in various physical activities three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes can offer health benefits for the mind, in addition to reducing stress and depression, as physical activity relieves your mind from daily tension and stress, as well as negative thoughts.
Exercise also reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones and stimulates 'happy hormones' such as dopamine and serotonin— chemical substances released from the brain when exercising that contribute to controlling the mental state and preventing anxiety, depression, fear, and pain, and gives a sense of pleasure.
Dr al-Shafi noted that exercise and other types of physical activity improve sleep quality by helping to sleep faster and deeper, which improves the mental expectations the following day, in addition to improving the general mood. She advised people not to exercise right before bedtime, as exercise usually activates the body, which makes it harder to sleep.
Performing regular exercise boosts self-confidence, raises self-esteem, and enhances the ability to cope with pressure. It also improves the physical appearance and provides with strength and energy. In fact, “a relation was found between participating in football, baseball, and basketball teams and developing one’s leadership skills,” she noted.
Dr al-Shafi advises people who plan to exercise not to think twice, wear suitable clothes, choose different types of exercise to prevent boredom, exercise in groups to motivate each other, and avoid eating high-fat food, as it raises the body’s sugar levels and encourages laziness and lethargy.
Dr Lamya Salah al-Din al-Shafi