The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

The body and mind are one. An inseparable pair.

Fitness and health is not about working one over the other—it’s combining and improving the two together. Rather than just seeing exercise as something you do to keep your body fit or to lose weight, remember that body health helps keep your mind in shape as well. It may seem odd that running a mile or lifting some weights will make your mind stronger—but it does. Studies show that making time for exercise has many mental health benefits.

Exercise should be a part of our everyday lifestyle whether we are athletes, someone looking to lose a few pounds, or someone fighting off a mental breakdown. So how exactly does working our bodies affect our minds?

 

Increases Endorphins

One of the biggest things that exercise does for our bodies and minds is producing endorphins. Essentially the transmitters in your brain send out feel-good chemicals called endorphins. They make you feel happy, energised and in general brighten your perception of the world. This has a whole horde of effects. It can improve your mood in the moment and stimulates anti-anxiety effects. But it also makes you sleep better—and sleeping better has a cyclic effect of making everything in your body run more smoothly, including your mood.

 

Reduced stress

This goes right back to those lovely endorphins. Stress can be hard to control on our own—it isn’t something you can will away. But when we have that feel-good feeling we sleep better. When we sleep better, our stress level goes down. There are even specific exercises such as Yoga which are aimed at relaxing your body and mind.

 

Reduces anxiety

Endorphins are awesome. As stated before, when you start working out your body begins to release chemicals to lower anxiety. This can take effect after just five minutes of working out! Talk about fast stress relief.

 

Improves Confidence

Some of the effects of exercise on your mental state are less scientific…but that doesn’t mean you feel them any less. When you feel physically capable, and/or more attractive it improves your self-esteem and gives you more confidence to face the world. That confidence makes little setbacks easier to take and it isn’t as easy to sink into the darker places that our minds can take us.

 

Improves Performance

This goes right along with confidence. When you exercise your body is capable of more things. Confidence is purely mental but performance is measurable. When your performance improves, it gives you a benchmark of success—one you’ve earned. It’s easy to feel proud of that and this then goes around to support that self-confidence.

 

Improves Self-Control

Self-control is a discipline. Think of it as a muscle all of its own. If you use it by doing something like ensuring that you work out for at least fifteen minutes a day, you are exercising your self-control muscle. How does that affect your mental state? Well, it allows you to avoid other pitfalls that can set off a mental downslide. When you have a bad day, it will give you better ability to avoid behaviours that you will regret later. Not eating an extra doughnut when your boss yells at you can mean avoiding a shame spiral the next day. It’s win-win.

 

If you are having a hard time emotionally or mentally, exercise may not entirely fix the problem but it can go a long way to helping. The physical and mental boosts of exercise benefit everyone.