One of the biggest reasons that I started exercising over 20 years ago now – wow time flies! – and one of the biggest reasons that I continue to exercise is, my mental health.
As a kid I used to suffer from depression, anxiety, and serious lack of confidence and this followed me to my adolescent years…because heck being a teenager is not tough enough!, and that was a tough place to be in.
Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that I was a kid who hated sports and exercise, but it’s true. In retrospect this may have been from being told that I was uncoordinated that way, but that’s another story. There was a time in my life I couldn’t even do a single pushup on my knees or run for more than 5 min before feeling like I was was going to vomit. Yup! I was out of shape!
I fell into exercise in high school because I was uncomfortable in my body and I wanted to lose some weight. It started with running and then (some as some of you will remember) Billy Blanks Tae Bo!:) Yup, that become my after school addiction. And somehow I managed to keep my exercise addiction going for the past 27 years – give or take a hiatus here and there.
The way I exercise and my mindset around it has definitely changed since I was a teenager, but the one thing that remains the same is that I always feel better, both physically, mentally, emotionally after I move my body.
I tell you all of this because if you have not yet discovered the amazing benefits that exercise can have on your mental health, I want you to know that it is a tool that we all have at our disposal to be more confident, more productive and happier in your life.
These are The Top 5 Reasons your Mental Health Needs Fitness:1.
- Exercise helps you cope with stress.
“It forces the body’s physiological systems — all of which are involved in the stress response — to communicate much more closely than usual: The cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other.”
2. Exercise release happy chemicals called endorphins. Quite simply this is the reason you always feel great after a workout.
“Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. They work similarly to a class of drugs called opioids
In the 1980s, scientists were studying how and why opioids worked. They found that the body has special receptors that bind to opioids to block pain signals.
The scientists then realized that some chemicals in the body acted similarly to natural opioid medications, binding to these same receptors. These chemicals were endorphins.”
3. Feeling stronger physically translates to feeling stronger emotionally.
Exercise makes you push past your comfort zone in ways that you may have trouble doing in your day to day. When you realise that you can run farther or faster than you ever thought possible, or when you are able to lift heavier than you thought, or perform and exercise that you once thought you could never do, that is a great confidence booster! The more you push your body past limits you once had for yourself, the more you are able to do it in the outside world.
“One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.” Albert Einstein.
During exercise you are challenging yourself, which leads to inevitable success when we practice repeatedly. When we believe in ourselves and our abilities we can go beyond what we had once imagine, and exercise is a great place to test the grounds for this.
4. Exercise keeps your brain healthy.
“Exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills both directly and indirectly. It acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation, along with encouraging production of growth factors — chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance, survival, and overall health of new brain cells.
It also acts directly on the brain itself. Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger in volume in people who exercise than in people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. McGinnis.
Exercise can also boost memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep, and by reducing stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.”
5. Exercise helps us sleep better.
When we sleep our bodies not only recover physically, but also emotionally. If we are missing out on critical sleep then it can take a toll on our emotions.
There is evidence that exercise helps us not only fall as sleep, but also have better quality sleep. Just be careful that you don’t exercise strenuously too close to bed time, as this may disrupt your natural circadian rhythm and affect your ability to fall asleep. https://thesleepdoctor.com/2017/05/22/benefits-exercise-sleep/
Bottom line, we were meant to move, we were not meant to sit at a desk all day. Although we may feel intimidated about starting a fitness routine, know that it is an essential part of being healthy and we all have the choice to either act before we have have no choice to take action or take action on our own and reap the benefits of taking preventive measures to stay healthy both physically and emotionally.
PS – If you’re ready to take action on your fitness goals, with support and accountability, click to get started on our next challenge.