“Exercise is good for you” is a phrase that we hear often.
But do you ever wonder how broad the meaning of this phrase actually is?
We have categorized physical exercise as a way to shed those extra pounds or gain some muscle. I used to think the same, until one fine day, my doctor suggested me to work out to alleviate my anxiety issues.
I was silly not to ask him about why he suggested that. instead, I walked out of his office, thinking, “do I look fat to him?”
I stood on the digital weighing scale. It denied the fact that I have put on any extra kilos. I stood in front of the full-length mirror and examined myself turning around. Nope, no ugly flaps visible anywhere.
It was then when I finally decided to search for other benefits of exercise and its impact on mental health. From several pieces of research and expert advice to stories of people who claimed that it worked, I found plenty of evidence supporting the contribution of exercise towards mental peace.
Working out just doesn’t make you physically stronger, but mentally too!
Read on to know how physical workout brings you mood stability and positively impact your mental capabilities.
1. Physical exercise is a way to releases stress
A while back, I read a motivating anonymous quote about stress, which was,
“One year from now, everything that you are stressed about won’t even matter.”
Although it’s true, the moments when stress overpowers us, everything seems bleak. It literally strips you off from your mental and physical abilities.
Minimizing the harmful effects of stress is possible if you do exercise regularly. The first obvious benefit of it will be that your mind will be diverted away from stressful thoughts.
Through their randomized controlled trial, researchers from Spain found out that perceived stress can be reduced after five weeks of practicing both mindful meditation and physical exercise as recovery strategies. They added that physical activity had better results than mindful meditation.
Yoga, a form of physical exercise that focuses on body stretching and breathing, has been known to reduce stress. It lowers down the levels of Cortisol, the stress hormone.
Regular exercise will also regulate your adrenaline levels, another hormone that plays a crucial role in sending impulses to organs for a response.
2. Induces sleep
Insomnia is the leading cause of deterioration of mental health. It is linked with symptoms of anxiety and depression, on which exercise can pose a strong impact.
If you want a sound and restful sleep, start working out regularly. Health experts suggest a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise session every day to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.
Be careful not to work out too close to bedtime, as that may hamper your sleep. Try to go for a jog or exercise early in the morning.
3. Eases symptoms of depression and anxiety
It’s tough to pick yourself up and have enough motivation to exercise if you have depression. However, being able to do that will alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety quite efficiently.
It will help if you start with less intense physical activity like gardening or walking whenever you notice anxiety symptoms are kicking in. Once you start seeing improvement in your symptoms, you can go for moderate-intensity workouts. Experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise for up to 5 days a week to cure symptoms of depression.
The key is to be regular and focus on positivity for better and long-lasting outcomes.
4. Reduces fatigue
Poor diet, irregular sleep patterns, and our never-ending relationship with our devices pose a harmful impact on our mental health. Without doing any strenuous work, we tend to feel fatigued.
The ‘feel-good’ hormones Endorphins are released when you start doing exercise. Endorphin release gives your energy a significant boost that can help subside tiredness.
Consequently, you will feel more energized, alert, and motivated.
In 2008, a study was conducted on sedentary young adults who started doing moderate to low intensity exercise. Favorable outcomes were achieved after a period of 6 weeks, where participants reported relief in fatigue symptoms and high energy levels.
5. Provides an outlet for frustration and irritation
I grew up watching action movies where the protagonist often unleashes his anger on the poor punching bag. It turns out; it actually makes sense.
The physical work you do while doing exercise gives you an outlet for your intense feelings like anger, frustration, and irritability. These feelings pose severe effects on our physical and mental health and force us to make impulsive decisions that may backfire later.
Try venting them out with physical activity like running or punching a pillow to curb these kinds of feelings. You can also use your negative emotions productively by grabbing a mop and cleaning your house the next time you feel frustrated over anything.
6. Instills feelings of joy by endorphin release
As stated above, exercise releases endorphins, which mitigate negative feelings. When you engage in physical activity, your brain’s oxygen supply is increased, and endorphins are released. As a result, your serotonin levels are elevated, and the mood is regulated.
Along with endorphins and serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help improve our mood.
But do we have to do long workouts daily to achieve that?
Research suggests that as less as 15 minutes of physical activity every day or several times a week can increase your positive vibes. It means that you can enjoy feelings of joy even if you take a 15-minute walk around your area in your comfortable tank top and PJ shorts! Personally, for me, going outdoors, socializing a bit, and looking at nature is enough to feel happiness and contentment.
Short but regular physical activity is way more useful to boost mental health than prolonged strenuous exercise done occasionally.
7. Suggested by health practitioners to manage several mental health issues
As exercise prevents cognitive decline, it is highly recommended by doctors to treat and manage several mental illnesses. In conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and depression, negative thoughts are uncontrollable.
Hence, the feel-good and motivational impact of exercise is useful to provide the much-needed positivity to patients suffering from these conditions. It also curbs the feelings of social withdrawal and low self-esteem.
Exercise increases the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF. It is a protein that helps grow new brain cells and enhances the life of existing ones. Exercise programs tailored to patients suffering from mental illnesses can have a tremendous impact on their recovery.
Apart from losing fat, treating cardiovascular diseases, and controlling diabetes, exercise will also effectively contribute to your mental health and peace.
The impact of physical exercise on our bodies is tremendous. Not only physical but mental well-being can be achieved if we indulge in regular exercise.
Depending on your ability and interest, you can choose a sport like a football, badminton, swimming, cycling, or running as an alternative to working out.
Playing a sport will give you even higher motivation.
Prioritizing mental health is extremely important to improve our quality of life and be a productive and positive member of society. Therefore, start being physically active to work on your mental health from today.