Most of us start out exercising to look better. Little do we know how good exercise makes us feel. That’s why most of us are hooked, and why some of us (cough, CrossFitters) have developed a bit of a name for ourselves.
In Elle Woods from the film Legally Blondes’ words, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands.”
Apart from the highly factual Legally Blonde quote that says it all, here are 7 ways of how fitness can improve mental health.
7 Benefits of Exercise to Improve Mental Health
Exercise releases a bunch of feel-good hormones that helps those with a troubled mental health journey. Even for those who can’t say they’ve struggled with depression or anxiety, they’ll be able to say they’re happier people because of exercise.
Better Sleep Quality
Ever felt smashed after a solid session? As it turns out, so does the rest of the world. Exercise helps you sleep. A common symptom of mental health problems like anxiety and depression is too much sleep or not enough sleep. This is because mental health issues often affect your stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is high, melatonin is low. And vice versa. Melatonin is your sleeping hormone and it has been proven to increase with exercise. A training regime will help regulate those hormones. Especially if you like to do something like yoga later in the day.
Increase Beneath-the-Sheets Performance
If you don’t get enough, consistently underperform, or have a partner who consistently underperforms – life is just that much harder. For those of you in the category of not being able to get down and dirty at all, maybe exercise will help you get that ideal body to attract a mate? From a scientific standpoint, once you’re in the bedroom, you can expect more satisfying orgasms, higher energy levels to increase sexual frequency, and enhanced sexual performance. Working out also makes you feel sexy, so you’ll feel more confident in the bedroom. A bad performance isn’t a good time for anyone. Always being your best in the bedroom will make sure you release those feel-good hormones.
Exercise is proven to increase your memory and thinking abilities. No one feels good about themselves when they keep forgetting a task at work or flunk out in university examinations. Especially in elderly adults, exercise will improve concentration and focus. Balance yoga poses utilize both your right and left brain improving your cognition. In the gym, a Bosu ball plank (or pistol squat if you’re really going hard) will test your mind-body connection.
A Decrease in Common Mental Health Conditions
Mental health issues are often an imbalance in brain chemistry. If you’ve experienced anxiety or depression, it sucks. And it feels as though it would be better to fall asleep forever. While science hasn’t proven that exercise will improve bipolar or schizophrenia, it can help with acute mental health disorders. Regular exercise is proven to reduce both depression and anxiety. From cardiovascular activities to yoga, many forms of movement will help you feel happier.
Nothing is worse for your mental health than feeling like you’re dragging your feet out of bed every day. Many of us feel we are just surviving in life. Although exercise is tough in the beginning, over time it increases our energy levels. Studies have shown that when participants stopped exercising for longer than two weeks, they felt more lethargic and low on vitality.
It’s no surprise that with better sleep and alleviated depression that lowered stress levels make the list. As mentioned, exercise regulates your hormone levels to increase sleep. As your sleep hormone melatonin elevates, your stress hormone cortisol decreases. Exercise naturally releases hormones that relax you and help you become a less stressed person.
Exercise teaches you mental toughness. It’s always that last mile or the last two reps that are the hardest. When no one is watching, it’s easy to give up. Exercise creates winners in the arena, but also winners in life. In business, relationships, and finances, it’s easy to want to give up at times. But someone who has trained to keep going when the going gets tough will be unstoppable.
Best Exercise To Improve Mental Health
By this point, you’ll be wanting to jump at any opportunity to exercise with these benefits. Do a vigorous vacuum if you’re feeling particularly inspired. But here are some more practical popular choices.
There’s no surprise Yoga is top on the list. It’s an ancient form of movement from the foothills of the Himalayan mountains in India that connects breath to movement. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system or your chill-center. Yoga helps to reduce stress, increase concentration, and release muscle tension. Yoga both strengthens and relaxes muscle tissue. It’s also proven to reduce both anxiety and depression. While it may not be your first choice to increase mass quickly, it will holistically increase lean muscle mass and mobility.
Why? Because it’s fun. Don’t get me wrong – if you’re an introvert and don’t like being around people, stay clear of this one. Most of us are community-driven, and happiest when we are around friends and family. Dancing will give you a mega cardio workout releasing all the feel-good hormones and you’ll make new friends. Being a part of a tribe also makes you more motivated to commit to your training because you don’t want to let the team down.
Lifting weights is the introvert’s answer to dancing. When lifting weights properly, you connect your breath to the concentric and eccentric phases of movement. A strict weight program will show you where you are improving. If you’re new to the gym? You’ll be seeing those newbie gains. You’re also strengthening your bones and muscles and creating the body of your dreams. When your mental health is down it feels like nothing is getting better. When you’re lifting weights, you can see your improvements in every session.
How Will Exercise Improve Your Mental Health?
Was there anything on this list that resonated with you? It can be hard to keep motivated when the work-outs get tougher. What’s inspired you to keep going today?