I would venture to say most people start an exercise program because they want to lose weight and/or get healthy. That’s why I started exercising years ago. While I still exercise for this reason, it’s become more apparent to me the reason I continue to exercise, especially around stressful periods of my life, are for the mental benefits.
7 Mental Benefits of Exercise
Mood Enhancer. Ever had a bad day at work? Or are the kids stressing you out with their demands? Or maybe you’re dealing with aging parents, unemployment, schoolwork, or marriage woes? It could be any thing that is weighing you down in your head. There is a link between exercise and mood – doing ANY kind of exercise always makes me feel better afterwards – I certainly never feel worse.
Stress reducer. Exercising for 30 minutes (or more) can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, chemicals in your brain that calm you down, soothe you, and help alleviate tension and stress. Sign me up already!
Sweat. Sometimes it just feels good to sweat, you know what I mean? If I’m angry about something or in a stressed out a situation, or feeling overwhelmed, pounding the pavement for a short, intense run where I sweat up a storm and breathe heavy is just what the doctor ordered.
Improve body image and self esteem. Well duh. Even a small change in perception of ourselves (lifting more, running faster/longer, etc) is enough to make us feel good about ourselves and that is always a win.
Get quality sleep. Whether you exercise in the morning or afternoon, it can help regulate sleep patterns at night. That being said, I’ve found that if I exercise in the evenings, it’s more difficult to fall asleep at bedtime as exercise tends to *wake* me up for the immediate hours following, which brings me to the next benefit…
Get more done. After I work out, I feel more *up*, regardless of the type of workout I do. I feel more focused, energetic and and positive. Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells (yippee!) and helps slow down old-age decline.
Social Activity. When I get really stressed out or overwhelmed with various situations in my life, I tend to *hunker down*, pull away and just be. However, doing those very things tend to make me feel isolated and alone and without a social outlet. I don’t want to talk about my problems all the time, yet I’m thinking about them a lot of the time and it weighs me down. By making myself GO TO those group exercise classes at the gym or making an appointment to meet up with my running buddy (even when I don’t want to – but do want to – if that makes any sense!) and keeping it, I am putting myself in social situations that show me I am not alone and people do care about me. Exercise truly does decrease feeling of isolation and loneliness.
I exercise and work out so my brain doesn’t explode and so I feel better. What about you?