The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

We all know that exercise is great for your body, and everyone wants to look good for the beach. Exercise isn’t just good for you physically though; in fact, physical exercise is also excellent for your mental health. There are several reasons for this. The act of creating a scheduled workout plan can help provide a sense of stability to your days, which might be something you feel like you’re lacking. Studies have shown that having a daily routine, and sticking to it, is an effective way to fight depression off and improve your mental state. Exercise can also provide a sense of accomplishment that comes from the work out. Tracking how you’re improving can boost your self-esteem, because you can see how you’ve gotten better with every workout. An important thing to remember while working out is that it may be difficult at first, or you might not be as fit as you think you are. It’s important to move past that and dedicate yourself to finding exercise that’s right for you. You’ll grow until you’ve surpass your initial expectations of yourself.


Exercise routines might seem daunting at first, especially if you’re older or feel that you’re in no condition to start hitting the gym. There are several options available to you however, and low-impact exercise is just as good for your mental health. Swimming, and stationary spin bikes are both forms of exercise that most gyms have and will allow you to benefit without putting undue stress on your body.


Exercise helps with depression because the act of exercising causes the brain to release endorphins, which are powerful pain-fighting chemicals that also make us feel good. Studies have shown that a feeling of physical well-being promotes mental health; chronic pain is linked to depression, and exercise can help to alleviate pain and make you feel healthy. It can also help you redefine your pain in a positive manner, everyone knows that you should be sore after a good work out. Seeing things through this positive lens can have a positive effect on depression and anxiety, a positive mindset is never a bad thing. Exercise provides a distraction for you as well and it can serve as your way of taking a break from your problems. Going to workout gives you time to process your emotions and thoughts; exercise is a good way to handle rough times in your life, and you may find that you have new inspiration after you’re done hitting the gym. Another benefit of exercise, if you choose to work outdoors at least, is exposure to the Sun. Sunlight causes you to tan, but it also makes your body produce Vitamin D. Not having enough Vitamin D has been shown make people upset or moody; getting just 15 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight causes your body to produce all the Vitamin D you need.


Exercise is useful for managing anxiety and panic attacks as well, because it gives you something else to focus on.  The beat of the music you listen to, the sound of your shoes hitting the pavement, or even the rhythm of your own breathing can all serve as guides to help you through a bout of anxiety. Plus, concentrating on your pacing and breathing has the added benefit of improving your exercise routine. Having an exercise routine in place for when you’re feeling stressed out can provide a sense of well-being as well and can give you the confidence to handle your anxiety. Sometimes the fear of being unprepared can make anxiety worse, or even trigger an anxiety attack, but if you know that you’ll be doing 100 crunches it may give you the peace of mind to work through the anxiety.


Exercise has also been shown to work well at helping those who suffer from severe trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Similar to how exercise is beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety or depression, exercise helps people with PTSD to free themselves when they get mentally stuck. Exercise gives you something to focus on, which may allow you to recover from the PTSD symptoms quicker. Exercises that engage as much of your body work best for this, as you’re trying to distract yourself by concentrating on what your body is feeling. Running, swimming, cross-fit, or other all-body activities are all good choices if you’re trying to reduce the symptoms of your PTSD.


While it might seem like you’ll need to be exercising intensively every day to see the mental benefits, the opposite is true. Exercising for just 15 minutes each day can help your mental state, and you can build up your endurance until you can go for longer periods. Remember, don’t push yourself. If you can only go 5 minutes before your body tells you to stop, only work out for 5 minutes. Overworking your body will only lead to more stress, and it’s better to slowly build your endurance instead of pushing yourself to hard. Your workout doesn’t have to be extreme in its intensity either, how much you sweat isn’t going to make that much of a difference. Exercising should be fulfilling to you, so if you find going for a 20-minute walk to be satisfying, then that’s what you should be doing. If you want to lift weights until your arms barely work because that’s what makes you feel like you’re making a change, then go lift weights.


Exercise that’s good for your mental health is about finding a routine and activity that works for you, and one that you can stick to. The key things are to keep exercising and to enjoy your workout. You can always change how you exercise until you find something you enjoy.