I am no stranger to experiencing the mental benefits of exercise. The multiple benefits of exercise have also been proven by researchers. This isn’t to say exercising regularly will mean that everything will be perfect and that it cures mental illnesses – but exercising regularly definitely can (and does, in my experience) have an impact on mental health. The outcome will be different for everybody because we all respond to therapies and treatments differently.
The list I’ve created here is mostly made up of how I believe exercise has improved my own mental health but I’ve also included resources for you to check out with more detailed information.
7 Mental Benefits of Exercise
- Mood enhancer. You’ve probably already experienced this benefit. Have you ever gone for a walk and just immediately felt better? You know, like one of those times you had to clear your head after an argument or mishap? This is because there are actually chemicals released by our brains during physical activity that help improve our well-being.
- Natural sleep aid. Exercise has always helped me sleep. During the last 9 months I’ve had a lot of issues sleeping and exercise just wasn’t enough to improve it. I ended up using a prescription medication (when I was prescribed Lexapro) just so I could sleep. I dealt with a lot of grief last year and it just felt like my brain and body were going crazy. After working through some things, getting back on track with exercise and with the help of lavender, I have been sleeping wonderfully without sleep aids now for about two weeks.
- Empowerment. Exercise is a very empowering activity. When you’re pushing your body to new limits, going further, lifting heavier, running harder or accomplishing something new, there’s no feeling quite like it. The empowerment I felt in the beginning is what continues to carry me through today. I still have ups and downs but ultimately I always remember how great exercise makes me feel and that gets me back into the swing of things.
- Build self-confidence. Confidence is built when we accomplish things we set out to do. As we achieve more and more, our confidence in ourselves grows. Exercising helps you feel good about yourself because you feel proud of the accomplishment instead of skipping the workout and letting bad thoughts fester. Your physical confidence will probably improve too because you know you’re taking care of your body and creating positive change that you can see.
- Build self-esteem. A lot of us struggle with the way we see ourselves, especially our bodies, because of the way society puts so much emphasis on physical appearance. I’ve learned through exercising that even though I don’t look like a fitness model, I’m still proud of how strong my body has become and that’s something to feel great about. I think working out has a sneaky way of teaching us to be more positive about ourselves – in all areas of life.
- Lift depression. Note I did not say “cure”. I’m not a scientist or a professional of any kind but I do have experience with clinical depression and I can tell you that fitness has helped lift that black cloud. “Research suggests that burning off 350 calories three times a week through sustained, sweat-inducing activity can reduce symptoms of depression about as effectively as antidepressants.” – via U.S. News
- Lower anxiety. Stressful situations can create anxiety or make anxiety worse. Exercise is a widely-known stress reliever so it makes sense that exercise could have the ability to lower your stress and make you less anxious. Results will differ for everybody but exercise is free so it’s worth a try, right?
Resource: Exercise for Mental Health via U.S. National Library of Medicine | National Institutes of Health (here you can find more information and a more technical explanation of what I’ve talked about in this post today)
Move body, think happy,