How Exercise Can Improve Mental Health

Exercise is wonderful in many ways. It can be great fun and has many benefits – not only for physical health, but for mental health too!

As the temperature drops and darker days draw in, it’s easy to for any of us to feel a little less ‘ourselves’. The cold arrival of winter can also make things more difficult for people dealing with mental illness all-year-long. However, exercise can take a massive strain away from things such as anxiety, depression, and extreme stress – helping you to feel like the best version of yourself once again.

Read on to find out how exercise can combat those winter blues and improve overall mental health in general…

Physical Benefits of Exercise

Let’s start with what we all already know. Exercise is great for physical health! Whether that be to keep your weight on track, keep fitness levels up, or recover from illness or health conditions.

Proven to reduce the risk of illnesses such as heart and lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and dementia, exercise is well-worth keeping up with!

Exercise and Mental Well-Being

How exercise can improve mental health is where things may become a little foggy for some. We always hear people telling us to do something active when feeling tired. ‘You’ll feel better for it’ they say. They’re not wrong – but many of us may wonder how on earth are we supposed to find the urge to exercise when we are feeling low. Let’s go through some benefits and we’ll move onto overcoming those obstacles…

Benefits Exercise Brings to our Mental Health

People who exercise regularly, tend to do so, partly because it brings about a great sense of well-being. Releasing chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, exercise improves your mood and makes you feel good.

STRESS RELIEF:

Regular exercise reduces stress, alongside other symptoms that come with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Relieving the physical tension that stress causes, staying active therefore also helps with insomnia. Better sleep is beneficial to your health in many ways, but most notably improves brain function.

MINDFULNESS WHILST EXERCISING:

A great thing about exercise is that it can act as a distraction to your mind. Getting out and meeting new people in a fitness environment is one thing and can be great for many. But to also add a mindful element to your workout regime, whether that be at home or at the gym, will also see benefits.

For example, notice the sensation of your feet as they hit the ground, or the feeling of the wind on your skin as you ride a bike at speed. By really focusing on specific elements of your body, you’ll not only see your physical fitness improve, but this may also be able to interrupt anxious thoughts or worries – therefore becoming a distraction to your mind!

You may find you begin to really enjoy how focused you are with your chosen sport, therefore causing you excel further!

BETTER SLEEP:

It’s no secret that exercise helps you to sleep better. Whether you’re a morning sprinter or an evening yogi, even just short bursts of exercise help to regulate your sleeping patterns and promote good sleep.

HIGHER SELF ESTEEM:

No matter who you are, or how confident you may be – we can all do with a little self-esteem boost from time to time. Regular activity encourages this. By investing in your mind, body and soul, you’ll begin to feel stronger and more powerful. Setting small exercise goals is also a great idea, as a high sense of achievement is felt when these goals are met!

Did you complete our November Challenge?!

Overcoming Hurdles and Getting Started

Making the decision to start exercising again or commit to a more regular routine, is the easy part. For some, getting started is more difficult. Here are a few common obstacles, and why we should push ourselves to get over them…

FEELING EXHAUSTED:

This is probably the most common reason we find ourselves putting off exercise. Juggling a busy life can often feel stressful enough and when this is the case, it may feel like working out can only make it worse. No time you say? Make the time! Because in truth, it’s going to make you feel a lot better. Shown to reduce tiredness and increase energy levels, there’s no better way to make you feel yourself again! Tell yourself to just do five minutes, and you’ll probably be able to go for longer once you get started!

FEELING OVERWHELMED:

Similar to the previous point, when life gets hectic – adding another thing to your ‘to do’ list seems overwhelming. However, if you keep in mind that physical activity helps us to do everything else better – you’ll actually want to exercise! As soon as you think of regular activity as a priority, you’ll easily find the time to fit small amounts into your day.

DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START:

If you have little knowledge of exercise, don’t be afraid to ask! It may seem a little daunting, but those in the fitness industry are here to help. We get asked questions all the time – you won’t stand out! No matter what age or fitness level you’re at, there’s something you can be doing to better your health and be more mindful of your body!

To round it all off, below are some quick bullet points to be mindful of as you get going, to ensure you stay focused and reap in the benefits:

  • Start off slow!
  • Schedule exercise during the time of day when your energy is highest
  • Focus on activities you enjoy
  • Reward yourself
  • Make it a social activity and take up a class with a friend!

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