Many of us know the feeling of leaving the gym or completing a workout feeling accomplished and better than we did before. Getting up and moving our bodies can increase our moods and mental health.
There are many physical benefits that come with exercises such as fat loss, improved endurance, and strength. However, there are also many mental benefits to exercise that not everyone is aware of.
An article from Harvard Medical School lays out the mental benefits of exercise. The article states, “Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.”
Making time for exercise and movement has been proven to reduce stress and almost any form of exercise is beneficial. As the article from Harvard Medical School states, “Almost any type of exercise will help. Many people find that using large muscle groups in a rhythmic, repetitive fashion works best; call it ‘muscular meditation,’ and you'll begin to understand how it works. Walking and jogging are prime examples. Even a simple 20-minute stroll can clear the mind and reduce stress.”
When it comes to exercise it's important to find a form of movement that is enjoyable. Working out should be an activity that leaves us feeling confident, motivated, and like our best selves.
Completing a workout should never be seen as a task, chore, or punishment. When we view exercise through this lens, it can then impact our happiness and mental wellbeing in a negative way.
It's also important to keep in mind that exercise looks different for everyone. One individual might go for daily runs in the park while another might enjoy going to a morning Pilates class. If the form of movement you choose is improving your mental wellbeing and happiness, then that’s all that matters.
A study completed by Science Daily noted a link between exercise and improved mental health, finding that exercising for 45 minutes, three to five times a week is the most beneficial.
The summary of the study states, “A study of 1.2 million people in the U.S. has found that people who exercise report having 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health a month, compared to people who do not exercise.”
From my own personal experience, I feel refreshed and confident after completing a workout each night. I enjoy finding new workout routines, creating workout plans for myself, and even upbeat playlists to listen to when I exercise.
Adding a workout into your day helps to add routine and structure. The sense of accomplishment we feel after finishing a workout leaves us feeling motivated and productive as we go about the rest of our day.
By Julianna Michell Strano