We already know that exercising is good for your body, but did you know that it’s good for your mind? Sure it helps you loose weight, build muscle, trim your waist and add years to your life. But that’s not what keeps people motivated and getting their body up to get to the gym. The reason people exercise regularly is because of the way it makes them feel. Believe it or not, exercising benefits your mental health in many different ways, let’s dive in!
Exercise and Confidence
So we all know a big part of exercising is loosing weight and toning your body. Sometimes self esteem issues have something to do with body image. Especially in this day and age with social media, we may find ourselves comparing our bodies to insane body images that are close to impossible to achieve. However, regular exercise helps build out confidence by improving our body image one day at a time.
Setting and Achieving Goals
Once you start becoming consistent in the gym you will slowly start seeing your body change. Whether it be loosing weight by doing cardio, or toning your abs and legs by strength training. Setting goals for yourself is another way to motivate you to keep going!
Having goals that you wish to achieve will push you to finish what you started. And once you slowly start seeing improvement you’ll be so proud of yourself. This it when mental health starts to come in. Setting goals is an effective way to increase motivation and help you create the changes you want to see in yourself.
The Science of Exercise
Now I know at first glance it may seem odd that something as simple as lifting weights can help something as big as mental health. Exercise releases chemicals/ hormones known as endorphins and serotonin. These are hormones that promote positive feelings such as happiness, pleasure and even love! Endorphins, specifically, are known to block pain and increase these feelings of pleasure an the more you exercise the more endorphins you release!
But what about that euphoric feeling after exercise, also known as runners high? Well, endorphins are to thank as well but with a little help from a neurotransmitter known as endocannabinoids. The harder you work, the harder these two work together for that amazing feeling you have after an intense workout!
Exercise and Depression
As you can tell, exercising releases hormones that you make you feel good so it shouldn’t be all that surprising to find out that exercising can help depression. Depression is something that I would wish on one one, however I myself have been met with this horrible mental disability as of thousands of other people. It’s not hard to believe that depression rates have skyrocketed in the past two years mainly due to the Covid pandemic.
Something that people have found helpful when battling depression is exercising. Exercise is also known to be a healthy way of dealing with depression. If you get to a serious state of depression and have urges of self harm, exercising is known to give endorphins which is a similar reaction to harming oneself. I know from first hand experience exercising is a great way to cope with distraction and make yourself feel happy!
Exercise and Anxiety
Depression’s best friend… Anxiety. Similar to depression, anxiety amongst the younger generation have escalated tremendously within the past two years. And it’s not hard to believe, when quarantining and schools going remote all of us have had a huge lack of social interaction…thus, social anxiety. When it comes to anxiety you may notice yourself shaking your legs, or fiddling your hands, heck they even came out with fidget toys to reduce anxiety!
Fidgeting is your body’s natural response to anxiety. Anxiety, simply put, is an intense build up of persistent worry or fear. So how does exercise help anxiety? Honestly anything that gets your body moving will help. Exercise relieves tension and stress, as well as boosts physical and mental energy.
You’ll get the most out of your exercise when you focus on your workout more. Noticing the sensation of your feet hitting the treadmill, or paying attention to the rhythm of your breathing. By paying attention to these things will help you focus on your body and not your anxious thoughts!
Exercise and Stress
Stress. It’s something everyone deals with from toddlers to adults, we can try our best to run away from it but it always finds it’s way back to us. Stress can come from an array of things: work, school, social life, relationships, etc. A healthy way to cope with stress is exercising!
Do you ever notice you your body feels when under a good amount of stress? Your muscles may tense up, head starts to ache, a tightness in your chest combined with a pounding pulse, I’m stressed just thinking about it! The combination of all of these feelings combined will do nothing but create mores stress.
Exercising is an affective way to put a stop to it and break the cycle. It’s a form of release, physical activity helps release the tension and relax the muscles, and of course adding a stretch at the beginning and end of your workout can help soften those tightened parts up! Sure by working out, you may physically release some stress and a few pounds, but the real benefits are when you start to shred your stress!
Exercise and Anger
Alright I saved the best for last… anger. As much as we may not like to admit it, we all get angry from time to time. Someone said some smart remark to you, your coffee order got messed up or maybe you just had a bad day! No matter the situation working out is a great way to release some anger.
Anger is a strong emotion and if left unfixed can have some pretty bug damage, such as outburst and mental health conditions. A good way to to calm anger and reduces any harm is to use anger management exercises. Exercises such as lifting weights are very similar to the feeling of an outbursts. It will leave you satisfied and you put all of your anger towards something… something healthy, your mind and body!
These are just a handful of mental health benefits exercising brings you, comment your favorite!
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Caitlyn is an aspiring writer, currently majoring in Communications with a concentration in Journalism.