There are a lot of reasons to work on your physical fitness. Whether you want to be healthier or look better in your favourite pair of jeans, increasing your daily step count or, even better, fitting in a few workout sessions per week makes for an excellent way to invest in your well-being.
Guest post by Sarah Kaminski.
Now, the physical benefits of exercise are widely known. They include:
- better weight management
- preventing chronic diseases like diabetes
- lowering your risk of developing cancer
- improving cardiovascular health
- increasing your lifespan
But were you aware that physical exercise can have a hugely positive impact on your emotional well-being as well?
So, if you wish to build up your mental health, here’s how exercise can help.
Lower Stress Levels with Yoga or Nature Walks
Plenty of evidence shows that a well-planned exercise regime can make you feel better by releasing endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. Yet most people don’t know that some workouts also work wonderfully for in-the-moment stress management.
In particular, yoga and walking in nature are great ways to relieve everyday stress caused by unwanted life occurrences.
For example, one study published in 2018 discovered that as little as 12 weeks of hatha yoga had an immensely positive effect on reducing stress, anxiety, and depression in women. Another research study published in 2020 compared the effects of exercise, nature exposure (via screens or TV), and working out in a natural setting and discovered that something as simple as walking in nature had a prominent effect reflected in lower cortisol levels and improved mood.
So, if you’re looking for quick-fix solutions that could allow you to better cope with everyday stress, mild exercise similar to the techniques mentioned above is an excellent way to improve your mental health immediately. But, if you’re searching for long-term strategies to build up your emotional well-being with exercise, you’ll need to do slightly more work.
Reduce Anxiety, Depression, and Negative Moods by Improving Self-Esteem
Another benefit of maintaining a regular exercise regime is its potential to mitigate the consequences of various mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. According to research, there are two primary ways in which working out achieves these goals:
- As already mentioned, exercise initiates the release of feel-good hormones.
- Exercise can be a great way to stop the cycle of negative thoughts that fuel depression and anxiety.
However, one benefit of working out that is often overlooked when discussing emotional well-being is the simple fact that exercise boosts self-esteem. In fact, merely participating in a training program can positively impact general self-esteem. However, the more favourable effect comes from changes in physical fitness when people notice that their hard work is yielding results.
So, if you’re searching for ways to invest in your mental health in the long run, know that doing 15 to 30 minutes of easy-to-moderate aerobic exercise three times per week will deliver noticeable effects within a couple of months.
But remember, doing more workouts (or upping their intensity) won’t necessarily provide more benefits. So, allow yourself to take things slow and focus on enjoying the movement instead of trying to reach your physical fitness goals in as little time as possible.
Improve Sleep Quality and Cognitive Function
Poor sleep can be hugely detrimental to your mental health. According to the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, low-quality or insufficient sleep can increase negative emotional responses to stress and decrease positive emotions. Furthermore, considering that sleep helps maintain core cognitive functions (memory, attention, and learning), it’s essential to improve your sleep quality if you’re looking to build up your mental health.
The good news is that this is achievable with exercise.
Research has found that as little as 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise can immediately improve sleep quality, which will be experienced that same night. Plus, if you suffer from a sleep disorder, exercising becomes an even more essential part of taking care of yourself, considering that physical activity has been proven effective as a first-line treatment of chronic insomnia.
Boost Energy Levels without Supplements
Lastly, if you’re searching for reasons to take up a fitness routine to improve your emotional well-being, don’t forget that one of the main ways exercise could help you is by boosting your energy levels. In other words, taking up a fitness program could help you become more alert and inspired. And the best part is that you wouldn’t have to rely on coffee or supplements to feel excited about investing in your mental health.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should completely write off supplementation. A well-formulated pre-workout supplement will help you make more significant and faster gains. Plus, it will improve your recovery, allowing you to push yourself harder without experiencing the uncomfortable effects of a new (possibly challenging) exercise routine.
Improving your emotional well-being is a goal you should definitely be pursuing in 2023 — regardless of whether you’re trying to work through specific issues affecting your mental health, want to increase your resilience to environmental stressors, or maintain a high level of physical, emotional and cognitive fitness well into the future.
The one thing you should do as you approach the task ahead is to get the proper guidance on your journey. No, you do not have to pay a personal trainer to work with you one-on-one to see the benefits of exercise on your mental health. But doing at least a bit of research on the types of training that will work best for your needs will allow you to get the best possible results with the least effort.