“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”~ Plato
You’ve probably already heard that physical exercise is good for your mental health. But to be honest, how many times have you thought that taking a run might get you out of that depressing mood? Or has the comfort of lying down and not doing anything physically intensive outweighed your desire to be active?
It might look easier to live a life without physical exercise but is it beneficial in the long run? Sure, it takes a bit of work to get your body to adjust to constant movement but the rewards are so satisfying. And by movement, I don’t mean your daily commute to the subway and back home. I mean an intentional commitment to stretching your body, making it sweat, and go the extra mile.
Physical exercise is not a punishment to yourself; it’s the highest form of self-care because it caters to all of you – mind, body, and spirit. However, most of us never get past the couch or the office because there’s not enough motivation.
Your body is the only one you’ll ever get so imagine living all these years and never knowing the delightful sensations of a good workout. But beyond the release of those happy hormones when you exercise, your brain will thank you for getting up and moving.
Every day has its stressors; work, family, relationships, adulthood…etc. Stress can also come from a traumatic event or continuous exposure to triggers. This stress can compound over time leading to more serious issues and mood disorders like depression and anxiety. When we’re stressed, our brains start to react and release cortisol which is the stress hormone.
Cortisol affects our mood and motivation and increases our fear. A constant release of cortisol can lead to an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, slower digestion, obesity, lower immunity, sleep disorders, memory loss, and disorganization of our thoughts. So, it could be that you’re not lazy and uninspired to hit the gym; the cortisol could be slowing you down!
That’s where physical movement comes in! Our brains are so self-sustaining! As you begin to work out, stretch your body, and your muscles are stretching and heart rate is going up, the chemical change in the brain happens almost immediately. For example, regular exercise can positively impact serotonin levels in your brain. Raising your levels of serotonin boosts your mood and overall sense of well-being. It can also help improve your appetite which is often negatively affected by depression. The more you work out, the better your metabolism becomes and digestion becomes easier so you’ll have a good and healthy appetite because your body needs it.
Still not convinced why working out is good for your mental health? Here are more benefits;
- Helps with mood disorders – Your body is releasing endorphins as you work out and they make you feel good and energized thus releasing stress and pain. They are activated with as little as 20minutes of exercise! As you work out, your brain is also focused on something you’re doing which is a good coping mechanism for anxiety. Your body is also releasing dopamine which is a “feel-good” hormone that helps with calmness and excitement.
- Increased Self Esteem and Confidence – You feel so much better about yourself because you’re taking care of your body. You also burn calories and gain muscle which tones your body and naturally you fall into great shape – which is an automatic mood booster. When you look good, you feel good!
- Better sleep – I’ve personally found myself sleeping much better and easier when I work out. Your body is expending energy and stretching muscles thus increasing your chances of falling asleep and having regular sleep patterns as you need to rest.
Physical workout needn’t be obsessively hard. I think most of us hate the idea of doing so much with our bodies. The key is to start small and increase pace, weight, and resilience as you grow. Start with a 10-minute walk then go increasing speed and time as you get used to it.
If you’re hitting the gym, don’t go directly for the biggest weights you can get or the hardest routines. Ask your trainer to give you beginner-friendly routines that will ease your body into working out. Whatever works for you is fine as long as it’s body-friendly and you enjoy doing it.
If you don’t know where to begin with physical exercise, Kukuwa Dance Fitness is a really good website with free workout programs on YouTube. If you need help integrating physical exercise into your daily routine, you can always reach out to us for therapy.