Exercise, Mental Health, and CBD: A Comprehensive Guide
Read Time: 5 Minutes
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it's an important reminder to check in on your well-being. Throughout the month, we'll provide you with lots of content full of practical advice to help you get your mental health in check through conscious daily decisions (and a little help from CBD). In this blog post, we're kicking off Mental Health Awareness Month with a complete guide breaking down the relationships between exercise and mental health, as well as a few ways CBD might be able to help you find balance in your day-to-day routine.
Exercise and Mental Health
While exercise is great for your body, it does a lot of great stuff for your mind, too. A growing body of scientific evidence supports the positive effects of exercise on mental health.¹ Evidence suggests that it may improve sleep, stress levels, depression or anxiety, cognitive function, and self-esteem.
In looking at the relationship between mental health and fitness, one study found that exercise can increase feelings of well-being and decrease feelings of depression.² Exercise offers people a sense of accomplishment, which increases feelings of self-worth, positive body image, and improved self-esteem.³
Aside from the attitude aspect of things, the physical effects of exercise may also help with your mental health. For example, sleep is essential to physical recovery and positive mental health.⁴ Some evidence suggests that regular exercise can reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep and improve your overall quality of sleep, leaving you feeling refreshed and upbeat the following day.⁵
Exercise may also reduce levels of cortisol, better known as the stress hormone, which may cause you to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious. But there is some hope in sight, with some studies concluding that exercise may reduce stress and anxiety.⁶
Last but not least, evidence suggests that exercise may improve memory and cognitive function.⁷ Some studies have shown that regular exercise may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in the form of Alzheimer's or dementia in older adults.
The Science Behind Exercise and Mental Health
If you're wondering how exercise might improve your mental health, remember that there's a lot more going on in your body while you exercise than you think. When we work out, our bodies release endorphins, which are chemicals our body naturally produce, that act as a natural painkiller and mood enhancer.⁸ Endorphins usually get released while we exercise to help soothe muscles and allow us to continue exercising with a positive attitude. Endorphins work by binding to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking pain signals and producing a sense of well-being and euphoria. They are often called "feel-good" chemicals because they improve mood and reduce pain.
During exercise, the body releases endorphins as a response to physical stress and exertion. This release of endorphins can contribute to the blissful phenomenon known as "runner's high" many people experience after a workout. Endorphins can also be released in response to other stressors, such as emotional stress or pain.
Studies have shown that exercise increases the release of endorphins, which may improve mood and decrease stress.⁹ A single session of exercise might improve your mood and reduce anxiety when you're actively feeling it, thanks to the release of endorphins.
CBD and Mental Health
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural compound found in the hemp plant and is one of over 100 compounds, known as cannabinoids. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another well-known cannabinoid, CBD does not produce the intoxicating, high feelings commonly associated with cannabis use.
CBD has been shown to have potential positive effects on mental health. For example, research has shown that CBD might reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve mood, and reduce stress levels. Evidence suggests that CBD may have therapeutic potential for anxiety-related disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.¹⁰
CBD works by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system, or ECS, which regulates various physiological processes, including things like your mood, sleeping and waking cycle, immune and inflammatory responses, and appetite. CBD interacts with receptors in the endocannabinoid system, known as CB1 and CB2 receptors, to produce its potential effects.
Because of its interactions with the ECS, CBD may also be useful for inflammation. Pain and inflammation can significantly impact mental health, particularly in chronic conditions where the symptoms are persistent and ongoing.¹¹ Chronic pain can lead to frustration, anxiety, and depression and can negatively impact an individual's overall quality of life.
Research has shown that inflammation increases the risk of depression and other mood disorders.¹² A 2020 review found that individuals with depression had higher levels of inflammation markers in their blood than individuals without depression.¹³
Another study found that inflammation can interfere with the brain's reward system, leading to symptoms of depression.¹⁴ CBD may offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that could potentially help you get control over your pain levels and improve your quality of life.¹⁵
Chronic pain and inflammation can also lead to sleep disturbances, which can further exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety.¹⁶ Sleep disturbances have been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.¹⁷ Some studies also suggest that CBD may help improve sleep.¹⁸ Since sleep is vital to your overall wellness, CBD may help you find the balance you need to rest, recover, and fight fatigue.
Incorporating Exercise and CBD into Your Routine
Now that you're familiar with the benefits of exercise for your mental health and some of the therapeutic potential of CBD, you might want to consider using both to keep your mental health in check. Incorporating exercise and CBD into your daily routine can be a powerful way to manage anxiety and depression. But remember, for some, it won't be the answer. Always talk to your doctor to devise a plan that will work best for you.
Exercise doesn't have to be intense or time-consuming to be effective. Even light exercise, like a short walk with your dog, can be beneficial. Finding an activity you enjoy can also make exercise fun and easier to incorporate into your daily routine. Here are some practical tips for getting started:
Change doesn't have to be everything all at once, take care not to overwhelm yourself, instead start with something simple and achievable. Go for a bike ride, try some yoga, dancing, walking your dog, or a short stroll in your favorite park.
Set realistic goals
Set goals that are reasonable for your lifestyle, aim for light exercise of 30 minutes three times a week at first. For those with limited ability, even simple things like clenching and unclenching fists, lifting your legs, or trying any movements underwater can help significantly. Once you get into the groove, experts suggest working up to 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.
Find a few activities you enjoy
Exercise doesn't have to be a chore. Find activities you enjoy, such as dancing, hiking, or yoga, and incorporate various activities to keep your mind engaged. Overdoing one single activity may decrease your motivation to continue exercising, so having a variety of activities you enjoy to choose from may help you accomplish your exercise goals for your mental health.
Experiment with different CBD products
As for CBD, you can start with something simple like a CBD tincture, capsule, or gummy. Take twice daily, once in the morning and once at night, starting with a half serving, and use a journal to keep track of your mood, anxiety, and pain levels. Feel free to increase or decrease your serving size until you find the perfect balance for yourself and your mental health goals.
There will be days when you don't feel like exercising, and that's okay. CBD may help you find the motivation to get your body moving, especially if stress or anxiety keeps you down.
Mental health is essential, and caring for ourselves is crucial, especially during challenging times. Exercise and CBD might be useful tools for managing anxiety and depression and boosting overall mood and mentality. Incorporating exercise and CBD into your daily routine might improve your mental health and well-being.
Start small, set realistic goals, and find activities you enjoy. And, as always, it's okay to ask for help when you need it. Small changes only work so much when bigger factors are at play, so remember to include your doctor as you work on your mental health.
Ready to get started? Start at Lazarus Naturals. We're committed to providing high-quality, third-party lab-tested CBD topicals, tinctures, and edibles made with organic and thoughtful ingredients designed to help you feel and move your best.