We all know that exercise is good for physical health and crucial for weight control. What’s not as commonly recognized is the powerful healing effects that exercise can have on mental health, particularly anxiety, stress, and depression.
Why does exercise make a difference in mental health?
- It releases feel-good endorphins.
- It reduces physical tension and stored energy.
- It boosts confidence and self-esteem.
- It’s a healthy distraction and coping mechanism.
- It boosts energy and motivation.
How to Use Exercise to Improve Mental Health
1 – Get Outside
Mother Nature is good for the soul but also good for the body. Sunshine makes us feel better and it’s rich in vitamin D. Exercising outdoors can also lower your blood pressure and make you more relaxed. Some of the best places to exercise are your own back yard, your neighborhood sidewalks (if you are walking or running), a nearby park, or a peaceful space where you can connect with the earth (beach, river, forest, garden, etc.).
2 – Listen to Empowering Music
There’s no motivator like energizing music. Fill your workout playlist with songs that inspire confidence, action, and determination.
3 – Mark Time for Exercise on Your Calendar
Treat exercise as a time commitment like you would with grocery shopping or doing the laundry. Once you complete a workout or finish exercising, you can cross it off your list. Doing so can help you feel more productive and accomplished.
4 – Set Non-Scale-related Goals
Focusing just on weight-loss can be frustrating. It’s also not the only indicator of progress. Set other goals, too, such as increasing the amount of weight you can lift or having more energy.
5 – Find Support in Others
Community is so important. It offers support, accountability, and motivation. Try exercising with friends or family or join a neighborhood fitness group. At the very least, many health apps like MyFitnessPal offer a virtual community where you can connect with others about goals, successes, challenges, workout ideas, and more.
Incorporate Movement into Your Daily Life
Finally, for exercise to be the most effective on your mental health, do it daily! Regular and consistent exercise will help you continue to reap all of its benefits. If you struggle with chronic anxiety, stress, or depression, exercise is both a preventative measure and a treatment.