Staying active is such an important part of my life these days that it's hard to remember a time when I didn't go to the gym regularly. There's the friendship with other gym-goers; the feeling you get from setting big goals and reaching them; and, of course, all the ways staying active helps you emotionally. It doesn't matter what kind of day I'm having or if I feel totally down in the dumps; the instant I set foot in the gym, every single time, I instantly feel better. Without fail.
Sure enough, science has spent a substantial amount of time exploring the mental and emotional benefits of staying active — and they are abundant. Don't underestimate the power of a good workout, because it can change your mood and perspective like you would never believe. It's not just "in your head." The physiological impact is real.
It doesn't take much, either. It could be a brisk walk or 10 minutes of yoga. Personally, I'm in love with weightlifting. Find what you love, and make a little time for it every day.
You'll probably be surprised how many common emotional problems could be vastly improved with a solid sweat session. These are just some of the ways exercise can help you feel better emotionally.
1Exercise And Depression
Exercise can affect depression in a few ways: According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression by releasing extra "feel-good" chemicals in your brain, like endorphins. However, exercise also reduces immune system chemicals, which can make depression worse. And finally, it increases your body temperature, which can help you feel more calm. I realize that the last thing you want to do when you're depressed is exercise; but your mind and body will be so thankful for it.
2Finding Relief From Anxiety
Research has shown that active people have lower rates of anxiety than sedentary people, largely because exercise helps your brain better cope with stress. One specific study found that people who vigorously exercise on a regular basis are 25 percent less likely to develop anxiety over the next five years. And here's the even better news: The Anxiety And Depression Association Of America says that a 10-minute walk can be just as effective as a 45-minute workout. All you have to do is get up and move.
3Fitness And Focus
The Harvard Men's Health Watch says that exercise is a game-changer in improved concentration and focus. Many of the benefits of regular exercise have a positive impact on your brain health, including healthy blood pressure, lower stress and anxiety, and a happy heart.
4Exercise To Feel More Awake
The evidence is overwhelming that regular physical activity reduces fatigue. In one study, researchers analyzed 70 randomized trials that included 6,807 participants. More than 90 percent of them had one thing in common: Sedentary people who participated in a regular exercise routine consistently had improved fatigued. It seems ironic that exercise helps tired people feel less tired; but the numbers don't lie.
5Getting More And Better Sleep
Even more ironic is that exercise — which helps tired people feel more alert — also helps you sleep better. One study found that just 150 minutes of physical activity a week led to a 65 percent improvement in sleep. That's about 20 minutes of activity a day. We can all spare 20 minutes.
6Meditation In Motion
Stress is a very broad term that can come from a number of emotional states, including anxiety and depression. Whatever the source of your stress may be, exercise could be an answer. Because it releases neurotransmitters, it can help you feel more confident and relaxed, and give you a greater sense of command over your body, mind, and life. The Mayo Clinic refers to it as "meditation in motion."