We all usually exercise because summer is getting close and we want to look good in that swimsuit, or you had a check up withyour doctor and some health markers aren’t where they should be. What if you’re oss was just being a real that certain day though? Or you just feel as if your brain has been running on overdrive lately? I think because exercise is a physical activity it’s not very often that we think about, or notice, the mental benefits. These can be things like actual hormonal changes, gaining a better personal image, or just feeling generally refreshed.
Anxiety, depression, and just general stress are real things that can be really hard to find things to help with it. Most people wouldn’t assume exercise could help with these things because it takes a lot of motivation to go exercise, and it also puts physical stress on the body. It’s a good kind of stress though because of all the awesome things our bodies do during exercise. Speaking about the brain specifically, neural growth is encouraged and loads of endorphins, literally known as feel good chemicals, are released. A very well known example of this is commonly referred to as “runner high”, but any form of exercise can accomplish this to some extent. Getting on a regular workout schedule also can help us tackle a big cause of some of these issues in today’s society, which is self image. Living in a time when everyone gets the opportunity to portray perfection on social media can really have us comparing ourselves to impossible physical standard, but at least working toward looking a certain way can quickly change what you see in the mirror even if nothing has physically changed.
I think the best thing exercise does for mental stress is just giving a distraction. Having been a coach for over 5 years now, fitness has obviously been a huge part of my life, and it has been unequivocally helpful in my own personal experiences with anxiety. Often these feelings of anxiety and depression creep in or get worse when there are an overwhelming amount of things we have to juggle, or fixate to much on one thing without feeling like progress is being made. I’ve found that during the middle of Fran it is a little difficult to think about other things that are going on. Even if it’s during a long jog by yourself eventually you start just hearing yourself breathe, and maybe counting your steps or thinking of how far you’ve gone. By doing some kind of physical activity it’s just hard to try and focus on other things, so it gives you an emotional/mental break. Especially when it’s a group class that you’re consistent in going to you meet friends! Even if it’s something as simple as having a mental block when writing a paper, finishing a presentation, or anything else of that sense it is very helpful as a way to just flush your head so you can have a clearer view when you go back to it. I will often write these blogs or workout ideas for the gym shortly after I finish training for the day!
Mental health can come from countless places, and there is no easy fix for any given person unfortunately. Exercise can help in lots of ways as physically releasing hormones or just providing a distraction to let your mind clear itself up a little bit. It is important to remember that exercise is a type of stress, generally good stress, but still stress none the less. It can be helpful to use exercise to alleviate bad mental and emotional stressors, but adding in other kinds of stress without addressing the actual problem it will start to compound. So go see your buddies at the gym and crush a workout for the day, but for long term health it’s important to address a root cause.