Exercise is probably the most powerful single habit that anyone can develop to live a healthier life. It can improve sleep patterns, strengthen the immune system, and increase physical performance.
Exercise makes it easier to produce more beneficial habits, such as good eating habits, hence earning the distinction as a “gateway behavior” to better health. However, it turns out that exercise also has mental health benefits. When used in conjunction with other approaches, it is an effective tool for managing stress.
While the exact results may vary depending on the type of exercise, virtually any activity that involves physical exertion can have stress reduction abilities. You can look into many ways of incorporating exercise into daily life. Even slight physical activity can already reap benefits.
“Exercise also increases blood circulation in the brain, which is linked to improvements in mood and attention. Spending as little as 20 minutes a day on exercise can actually increase your overall productivity, and decrease energy wasted from mental stress,” Jenny C. Yip, PsyD, ABPP said.
Hence, this article discusses the particular mental benefits of exercise, as well as advice on how to adapt to a more active lifestyle.
Benefits Of Exercise
An exercise session is a controlled dosage of physical stress. Every pushup and jumping jack forces the body to raise its metabolic rate, stimulating the different organ systems of the body. After the session, the body rebuilds and strengthens itself in anticipation of the next high-activity training. Circulation is improved as the body optimizes its way if delivering oxygen and nutrients to the different organs.
The brain is similarly affected. The increased circulation helps it avoid disease and function better. Exercise also raises endorphins, a type of neurotransmitters associated with positive moods. By strengthening the brain, physical exertion fortifies both the body and the mind, increasing mental resilience and reducing the impact of any existing mental disorders.
Despite its stimulating nature, exercise has a calming effect. Many people report higher levels of relaxation, especially after a good workout. Aside from its impact on the brain, physical activity can also serve as an outlet for any pent-up emotions. Some people are also able to use exercise as a distraction from stressors. Because of all these, exercise can directly reduce feelings of anxiety.
Aside from the ability of exercise to raise moods, it can also increase your self-esteem. Many people who exercise report that they feel like they are taking control of their health and their lives. This feeling of independence helps people feel more confident and ready to take on the challenges they are currently facing. By giving people the power to take control, exercise can help people gain hope and to continue fighting against stress.
How To Start
Aside from the myriad benefits of exercise, what makes it a popular program for stress management is its ease of application. To start, think of physical activities that you like to do. It can be as energetic as badminton or karate, or something as simple as brisk walks around your house.
Try activities you enjoy and can do on a daily basis, then consult with your doctor to make sure that you can perform these activities safely. Work out an exercise plan with your doctor or other trusted health professional and make sure that you stick to it.
“Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be an excellent choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial,” wrote Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD.
Taking It Further
To make it easier to exercise, incorporate movements into your daily routine. For example, take the stairs instead of riding the escalator, or consider walking or biking instead of driving or taking a cab. If your daily work requires you to sit or stand for long periods, you should take short and frequent breaks to walk around the office for a few minutes.
“The simple act of focusing on exercise can give us a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk,” wrote Sarah Gingell, PhD.
You may also invite your friends to go to dancing classes or weekly bowling games. By being with people you like hanging around with, you make it easier to conform to your exercise plan as you have someone with you who can monitor your progress.
However, it is also fine if you want to do these activities by yourself. Just find a routine and style that works for you, as the consistent physical activity is needed to reap the benefits of exercise.