Sean, an outreach manager at The Boxing Club a martial arts & fitness center based in San Diego, shared that we’re always looking for ways to step up our game for our physical and mental health. It’s always a bonus when both physical and mental health is prioritized. Ahh, gotta love efficiency, right? *Inserts exercise here* – Exercise is more than heart rate and weight loss. While those two can be very important, it is also important to note the massive mental health impacts that can be gained from regular exercise. The best part is that it’s not exclusive to anyone in particular – it’s universal. Specifically, exercising regularly has a profound impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It is recommended that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most days.
Exercise and depression
A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk for major depression by 26%. Exercise can positively impact depression by also providing a maintained schedule to prevent relapse. Exercise is known as a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Firstly, getting a good leg day in or getting that heart rate going promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, such as neural growth, reduced inflammation, and changing activity patterns that can help bring feelings of calm and well-being. Endorphins, powerful chemicals related to emotions, are released during exercise. Plus, when one is plugged in during a serious lift or run, exercise can serve as a distraction to cut out the noise and prioritize you.
Exercise and anxiety
Exercise is probably one of the best and natural anti-anxiety treatments. The healing properties of exercise include relieving tension and stress, boosting physical and mental energy, and enhancing well-being through the release of endorphins. The most ideal scenario is when physical exercise combines moving with paying attention. You can find this by paying attention to the sensation of your feeling your heels on the ground when going into a squat or the rhythm of your breathing as you change from a jog to run, or the feeling of sweat dripping down your skin. Adding a mindfulness element, really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise will help to interrupt the flow of anxiety.
Exercise and stress
It’s not our favorite thing to do, but take yourself back to a time when you were stressed. Your muscles were probably tense, especially in the face, neck and shoulders. Your back may have been acting up or painful headaches were a part of your day. Accompanied by tightness in the chest, muscle cramps, stomach pains, etc., these physical symptoms can then lead to more stress. Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle and release endorphins to the brain to help relax the muscles / relieve tension within the body. The body and mind are so closely linked that when your body feels better, your mind may also. Despite suffering from a mental illness or not, exercising is still a fantastic way to keep your mental toughness up. Regular physical activity can offer a boost to your mood, outlook, and overall meaning.
When you think exercising, also think …
Sharper memory & thinking: The same good-feeling endorphins also help you concentrate and stay mentally sharp for a variety of tasks. Getting your steps in every day or other activity can also stimulate the growth of new brain cells and prevent age-related decline.
Self-esteem is connected to an investment of your entire being – mind, body, and soul. With exercise, prioritizing, and creating time for this habit can foster your sense of self-worth and keep you feeling strong/powerful. You’ll look and feel better. Does it really get better than that?