While most of us know the many physical benefits of exercise (lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of diabetes, burning calories, increasing energy, to name a few), working up a sweat also has a very powerful impact on our mental health and plays a large part in enhancing our well-being.
During the best of times, motivating ourselves to be active can be challenging. When compounded by depression, anxiety, or stress, this Catch-22 (intellectually you know movement will help your state of mind, but you lack the energy to get going) can keep you on the sofa. How do you take that first step toward the release of those coveted endorphins, toward feelings of calm and happiness, and toward more energy, better sleep, and improved focus? Small steps.
First, you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic. This approach goes beyond just burning calories. To reap the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, you can start with modest amounts, like 30-minutes a few times a week. If that doesn’t work in your schedule, break it up into 15 or 10-minute sessions, and build up over time.
Second, make the opportunity to exercise as stress-free as possible by creating a home gym and saying goodbye to membership fees, commuting, on-lookers, line-ups, and germs. The foundation of every home gym begins with durable rubber flooring that supports your joints, protects your floors, keeps noise and germs (look for a non-porous, anti-microbial surface) at a minimum, and allows you to exercise safely without slipping or tripping. Whatever you add to that space, be it small and simple or all-out outrageous, you can rest assured that your home gym will deliver both the motivation and peace of mind to get moving.
And third, the benefits of exercise on your mental health are powerful enough to get you lacing up your shoes. These include:
EASE DEPRESSION & ANXIETY
The mind-body connection is powerful; physical activity, a scientifically proven mood booster, naturally kicks up endorphin levels, the “feel good” chemical that comes from the brain and spinal cord. Released endorphins are shown to increase feelings of happiness and euphoria after a workout. Because of this, exercise has been used to treat mild to moderate depression. A recent study done by The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health discovered that running for 15 minutes per day or walking for 1 hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.
As well, exercise is an effective treatment for anxiety, not only because it releases endorphins, but also because it gives your mind something else to focus on. Exercise is a proactive way to reduce tension, and feelings of fear and worry you might be carrying.
While it may seem counterintuitive, increasing your heart rate can reduce your stress levels; by decreasing stress hormones, such as cortisol (aka the stress hormone), you can lower feelings of stress. Exercise will stimulate the production of hormones in your brain and can improve your mood. As well, when putting your body under a moderate degree of physical stress, your body is learning how to recover and adapt to both physical and mental stress. It’s a win-win.
BOOST YOUR BRAIN
Regular exercise positively effects your brain. Those coveted endorphins that make you feel better, also help with concentration, increase productivity and boost brainpower. How? When you exercise, you stimulate the growth of new brain cells (a process called neurogenesis), which in turn helps strengthen the part of the brain we use for learning and memory. As a result, improving your overall brain performance will help ward off cognitive decline and boost mental energy, sharpen your memory and boost your creativity.
GROW SELF ESTEEM
While it might not be the reason you began your fitness journey, exercise can boost your spirit. Exercise is a habit that can improve your sense of self-worth, making you feel strong, powerful, and better about your appearance – the sense of achievement will increase your positive self-image both in and out of the gym.
Are you stuck tossing and turning, waking in the morning more tired than when you went to bed? Exercise can help you get a good night’s sleep and stop counting sheep. Physical activity increases your body temperature which in turn can have a calming effect on your mind. The best times for your workout are in the morning or afternoon (at least 5 hours before bedtime), giving your body’s core temperature the time to return to normal and signal the body it’s time to sleep. If you prefer to do something in the evening, more relaxing exercises such as yoga and light stretching can improve your sleep quality, and in turn, boost your energy for the day to come.
So, remember, when you think you’re too tired, down, or stressed out to exercise, that’s likely when you need it most – a moderate workout will increase blood flow, carrying oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body, leaving you happier, calmer, and more energetic and alert.
To see how we at FitFloor can help you on your well-being and fitness journey, contact us at email@example.com.