5 Secret Mental Benefits of Exercise
Author: Chloe Otto, LMHC, CASAC-T
You’ve heard it before, “Take time for yourself and work out!”
Everyone and their mother preaches this idea; however, not many of us can stick to a consistent routine. Sure, we might try it once or twice but real life takes over: the demands of work, kids, day to day tasks like making dinner, you name it.
We start to make excuses for ourselves…
“Oh, I’ll make the time for it next week,”
“A few days without going to the gym won’t kill me.”
We may think to ourselves...
“What’s the big deal about working out anyway?”
Everything starts to take precedent and soon working out is placed on the back burner. Did you know that exercise can impact your mental health?
I’ll give you 5 quick reasons why exercise should become a priority, after all, I know you’re busy.
Reduces Stress - In the article, “Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety,” researchers have found that the the simple action of exercise can reduce one’s stress and/or anxiety. This “time out” you give yourself from the busy world helps you ultimately become more energized and focused. How would it feel for you to have a clear mind to tackle the day?
Improves Memory - How does exercise help your brain? Interestingly enough, exercising consistently reduces insulin resistance and inflammation and increases the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, allowing for one’s memory to improve (Godman, 2016). The parts of your brain that focuses on thinking and memory, the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex respectively, are positively impacted by exercise. These are two pretty important things, right?
Increases Self Esteem - Exercising can directly impact your self-esteem. Accomplishing goals that you’ve set yourself, like running your first 5k or lifting your goal weight, can help boost your self-esteem. Who doesn’t like seeing improvements?
Increases socialization - Gyms have group workouts for a reason - It brings everyone together who share a common goal. You’re more likely to talk to someone in a group setting than if you’re working out solo. Finding people who can keep you motivated all the while having fun and building friendships is the way to go. Socialization is the one factor that increases longevity of life. Aren’t we all looking for ways to connect with others?
Improves Sleep - Ever have one of those nights where you’re tossing and turning? The clock keeps ticking while you impatiently wait for sleep to come. When you exercise, you’re more inclined to have a better night sleep. This allows your mind and body to get the rest it needs while recharging yourself for the next day.
So, now what?
It’s not easy to change your routine and form a new habit. Try these ideas:
1. Create and write down a workout schedule: Putting it in a highly visible place, like your kitchen fridge or your bedroom mirror, will act as a reminder to your commitment.
• Writing down your goals improves the chances of change, especially if you are constantly seeing it and reading it!
2. Share your goal with others: this is shown to make us stick more closely to our new routine.
• Better yet, plan to meet a friend for your workout!
3. Make it easier.
• Afternoon workouts: Bring your workout clothes to work as a way of avoiding that comfy couch that calls out to you as soon as you get home
• Morning workouts: Leave your shoes by your bed and sleep in your workout clothes
"I want to, but I just I can’t do this! "
Sometimes, our mental health may make it difficult to commit and motivate ourselves despite knowing how pertinent our health is and despite efforts toward our goals. If you are feeling like you need more support to meet your goals, please contact us, we can help!
How do I know if I need help?
If your answer is YES to 3 or more of the following questions, it may be time to seek help.
I often find it is difficult to get out of bed or leave the house to do the things I want to do.
I often have trouble making and sticking to a plan.
I am often too stressed and overwhelmed with day to day things to do things that I know are good for me.
I have a hard time maintaining healthy eating habits (eating too little, too much, on the go, unhealthy choices, binging, purging, hyperfocused on eating etc…)
I am unable to maintain a healthy weight no matter what I have tried.
Anderson E., Shivakumar G. (2013). Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Front. Psychiatry 4:27. 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00027
Godman, Heidi (2016).Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills.https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110