Exercise is the best way to gain muscle, strength and fitness, plus it compliments your weight loss efforts when coupled with eating healthy and portion control. But did you know exercise can also help your mental health? Whether you’re feeling stressed out or struggling with a more serious illness, exercise can improve mood, sleep, and general mental well being. Here’s 5 ways that exercise can improve your mental health, and the best activities to help you reap the benefits.
Research shows that regular exercise can have a profound impact on symptoms of depression. This is because when we exercise, we release two powerful chemicals – serotonin and endorphins. Serotonin is responsible for regulating our mood, among other functions, so when your serotonin levels increase, you’re less likely to experience negative thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, endorphins give your brain an immediate pick me up, which is why even one exercise session can lift your mood. With regular exercise, you can reap the benefits of both these chemicals and elevate your mood for the better.
Calming the Mind
As well as improving mood, serotonin and endorphins can help alleviate anxiety by calming the mind. On top of this, creating a routine can help you feel calm as it provides structure and order to your day and week. Having a training session at the same time each week, for example, can help you feel more in control and less panicked about uncertainty. If you’re looking to calm your mind, try mindful exercises such as yoga and focus on the way your body feels as you exercise, which will help keep you grounded and relaxed.
If you feel tightness in your neck and shoulders, are experiencing more headaches than usual, or have had unusual stomach issues, you could be experiencing heightened stress. While some stress is good for the body, excess stress wreaks havoc not only on our minds, but also on our bodies. Both low-intensity and high-intensity exercise can aid in alleviating stress. If you feel like you need to ‘get out of your head’, a strength or Muay Thai workout can take your mind off your stressors and can work wonders for tightly coiled muscles. If a sense of calm is more your speed, low-intensity aerobic exercises such as jogging or swimming can be a great way to calm the mind and body.
Increasing Focus and Attention
If you’re struggling to remain focused throughout the day, exercise could be key to improving your attention span. As well as improving serotonin, physical activity also boosts dopamine and norepinephrine, important chemicals that help the brain to concentrate, focus, and remain motivated. Plus, the same endorphins that help boost your mood are also responsible for improving concentration and memory. While you might feel as though you don’t have time to exercise, or need to get work done before you can, a quick 10-minute workout can give you a burst of energy and help you tackle those afternoon tasks with ease.
Exercise has an amazing impact on sleep both because it boosts energy, and because it sets our body up for a better sleep routine. Moderate-high intensity workouts have been shown to help you fall asleep faster, decreasing the amount of time you lie awake at night – if you do them at the right time of day. The best exercise routine will align with your circadian rhythm i.e., your natural ‘body clock’. By engaging in some running, weight training or even Muay Thai during the morning, the release of chemicals will boost your energy for the day, and you’ll get sleepy when it’s time for bed. If you prefer evening activities, low-intensity, mindful exercises can be best to unwind before you settle in for the night.
If you’re looking to start a regular exercise routine, we’re here to help. Contact us for a hassle-free consultation and see how our personal training services can benefit you.