Physical exercise is the epitome of good health. However, work, family, and time management challenges make us lose touch with this health component. The result is a weakened mental or psychological resilience, a factor that takes a toll on individual performance. Generally, poor mental resilience compromises our mental health and renders us incapable of coping with difficult situations whenever they present in our lives.
However, engaging in regular exercise improves our general well-being and quality of life. It is also known to help manage physical ailments and boost mental health. For instance, physical exercise can boost mood and, in the process, alleviate depressive symptoms. More importantly, regular exercise can increase mental resilience, reducing the risk of physical and mental illness.
How Does Physical Exercise Build Mental Resilience?
Mental resilience refers to a person’s ability to manage or cope with stressful life events in a positive way. Essentially, mental resilience helps people adapt, rise above their current stressors, and thrive in the face of changing demands. Physical fitness is a sure path to building resilience.
First, research shows that physical exercise increases resilience by inducing positive physiologic and psychological responses. These responses facilitate adaptation and confer protective effects against the negative emotional consequences of stress.
Physical exercise also rewires or reorganizes the brain, helping it adapt to stressors and become more resilient when faced with similar circumstances in the future. Consequently, this reduces the risk of stressful situations disrupting normal brain function or triggering maladaptive stress responses that often manifest through anxiety and depression. On this note, mental resilience leads to better mental and physical health, significantly reducing the likelihood of developing psychiatric disorders.
Recent studies further acknowledge that regular exercise improves resilience by blunting stress reactivity. It also ensures that the hormonal stress response systems work optimally in the face of adversity, enabling a person to manage crises better. This decreases the physiological, metabolic, and emotional reactivity to stress, activating positive mood and boosting individual well-being. On the same note, research shows that physically fit persons generally demonstrate more resilience and tolerance towards mental and psychological stressors. This pattern follows that exercise training acts as a form of intermittent stressor that enhances individual responsiveness to other kinds of stressors.
Exercise further increases resilience by reducing the inflammation associated with physical inactivity and exposure to chronic psychological stress. Inflammation is essentially a result of the interactions between pro-inflammatory cytokines. These chemicals negatively affect brain function and neuroplasticity, impairing psychological resilience. However, exercising relieves inflammation leading to better neurological outcomes and improved resilience.
Exercise also helps build mental resilience by boosting levels of natural or endogenous cannabinoids in the body. These chemicals, often regarded as endocannabinoids, influence stress response, including mood regulation. A reduction in their levels undermines normal function and predisposes individuals to psychological problems. However, physical activity increases their supply within the body, allowing the endocannabinoid system to boost mental resilience and induce an appropriate response to stress. On this note, physical exercise leaves you well equipped to deal with stressful situations and helps maintain good performance despite the odds.