If you’re feeling run down, anxious, or just plain out of sorts, you might be tempted to skip your workout. Before you do, consider the many mental health benefits of regular exercise. We are all familiar with the physical health benefits of exercise. What about the mental health benefits? It turns out there are a ton of them! When we think about the benefits of exercise, our minds usually go straight to physical advantages like losing weight, getting more robust, and having more energy. Exercise indeed has all of those things to offer, but what many people don’t know is that there are many mental health benefits to be had from being active as well.
Feel Better Mentally With These Eight Benefits of Regular Exercise
Improve Your Mood
When you feel down or stressed, it can be tough to muster up the motivation to get moving. But once you do, you’re likely to feel better.
Exercise releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that boost your mood and act as natural painkillers. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” that people feel after a long run or strenuous workout.
One study found that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week was as effective as taking an antidepressant drug in alleviating symptoms of depression.
This boosting mood benefit of exercise can be long-lasting. People who exercise regularly tend to feel more energetic and optimistic about their lives than those who don’t exercise regularly.
One of the most common mental health benefits of exercise is that it can help to reduce anxiety. Anxiety can have several negative effects on your mental health, including making it difficult to concentrate, feel motivated, or even get a good night’s sleep. Exercise is an effective way to reduce anxiety and improve your mental health.
Aerobic exercise, in particular, is effective at reducing anxiety. A meta-analysis of studies found that aerobic exercise can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety (1). Another study found that just four weeks of aerobic exercise was enough to significantly reduce anxiety levels in people with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) (2).
If you’re struggling with anxiety, regular exercise may be a helpful way to reduce your symptoms and improve your mental health.
Lessen Stress and Better Stress Management
When we feel overwhelmed or stressed, it can feel like there’s nothing we can do to feel better. But one of the most effective ways to combat stress is also one of the simplest: exercise.
Regular exercise has been shown to help with stress management in several ways. For one, it can help to increase our levels of endorphins, which are hormones that block pain signals from the brain and have mood-boosting effects. It can also help to improve our sleep quality, which can be negatively affected by stress. In addition, exercise has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Not only does exercise help us feel better in the moment, but it can also provide long-term stress relief. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience found that just eight weeks of exercise (such as walking, running, or swimming) can help to significantly reduce both perceived stress and cortisol levels.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, make exercise a priority. Just a small amount of activity can make a big difference and help you feel more in control.
It can be easy to feel down on yourself. Maybe you didn’t do as well as you wanted on a test, or you’re not happy with your appearance. Whatever the reason, poor self-esteem can lead to a downward spiral of negative thinking. But there is good news! Exercise is an effective way to boost self-esteem.
Improved Sleep and Increased Energy
We all know how good it feels to get a full night’s sleep. But did you know that regular exercise can help you sleep better? According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercise can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep.
If you feel like you’re dragging during the day, regular exercise can give you the energy boost you need. It’s not just a temporary fix—working out regularly can increase your overall energy levels.
Improved Memory and Mental Acuity
You undoubtedly know that exercise is vital to maintain muscle strength, heart health, a healthy weight, and prevent chronic diseases like diabetes. Exercise can help you think better.
Exercise improves memory and thinking skills indirectly. Reducing insulin resistance and inflammation also increases the synthesis of growth factors, which affect the formation of new brain blood vessels, as well as the survival, and overall health of new brain cells.
Reduce Panic Attacks’ Severity and Frequency
One of the most common mental health benefits of regular exercise is its ability to help reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by sudden and intense episodes of fear or anxiety. These episodes can be so severe that they interfere with a person’s ability to function in their daily life. Exercise is an effective treatment for panic disorder.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
For children and adults with ADHD, regular exercise can help improve symptoms. It is thought to do this by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. These are chemicals that play a role in focus and attention.
Children with ADHD may benefit from physical activity because it can enhance their motor skills and executive function. Interestingly, this appears to apply to both moderate and strenuous exercise, and it appears that exercising for a longer amount of time may have superior outcomes. Cardiovascular exercise appears to be particularly useful for children and adults who suffer from ADHD.
How To Start When You Don’t Know How or Want To?
It can be tough to start exercising when you feel like you don’t know how or don’t want to. Maybe you feel too tired, overwhelmed, or just plain lazy. Trust us: once you get started, you’ll feel better mentally and physically in no time.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1.) Create a Plan That Is Realistic for You
It is important to set yourself up for success when you are trying to improve your self-esteem. This means creating a workout plan that is realistic for you and your schedule. If you try to do too much too soon, you are likely to get overwhelmed and give up.
2.) Start Small and Build Up
Once you have created a realistic plan, it is important to start small and build up. If you are new to exercise, begin with just a few minutes a day and gradually increase your time as you feel more comfortable.
3.) Find an Activity You Enjoy
It is also important to find an activity that you enjoy. This will make it more likely that you will stick with your workout routine. If you hate running, don’t force yourself to do it! There are plenty of other activities to choose from, such as walking, biking, or swimming.
4.) Do It With a Friend
Working out with a friend can also be helpful. This way, you will have someone to motivate and encourage you.
5.) It’s on How You Feel, Not on How You Look
When you are trying to boost your self-esteem, it is important to focus on how you feel, not on how you look. Exercise should make you feel good, not just look good.
6.) Focus on Your Progress
Finally, focus on your progress, not your perfection. It is important to celebrate the small victories as you work towards your goals. This will help you to feel good about yourself and your accomplishments.
7.) Get Professional Help
If you feel like you can’t do it on your own, get professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you to develop healthy self-esteem and work through any issues that may be holding you back.
Ways to Exercise Without Going to a Gym
You don’t need a gym membership to get the benefits of regular exercise. There are plenty of ways to get moving without even stepping foot in a gym. Here are some great options:
- Take a walk: Walking is a great way to get your heart rate up and improve your mental well-being. It’s also low-impact, so it’s easy on your joints.
- Ride a bike: Riding a bike is another great cardio workout that can be done virtually anywhere.
- Do yard work: Spending time outside in the fresh air can do wonders for your mood. And, bonus, you’ll get some exercise in too!
- Take the stairs: If you have the option to take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, go for it! You’ll get a little extra cardio in and it’s good for your legs.
- Dance: Dancing is a fun way to get your body moving and improve your mood. Turn on some music and let loose!
- Play with your kids or pets: If you have kids or pets, spending time playing with them is a great way to get some exercise. You’ll both have fun and you’ll get some movement in.
There you have it! There are plenty of ways to exercise without even setting foot in a gym. Get creative and find something that works for you. You’ll feel better mentally and physically if you make regular exercise a part of your life.
Exercise is essential for good mental health. It can help reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your energy levels. You don’t need a gym membership to reap the benefits. There are plenty of ways to get moving without even stepping foot in a gym. Get creative and find something that works for you. You’ll feel better mentally and physically if you make regular exercise a part of your life.