Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our well-being. Even a short burst of 10 minutes' brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy, and positive mood. Participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety. It also plays a role in preventing the development of mental health problems and in improving the quality of life of people experiencing mental health problems.
The mind and the body are connected in many ways, so it makes sense that how we treat our bodies can have a serious impact on our mental health.
“What is your diet like?” and “How often do you exercise?” can be common questions in a counseling session. If your mental health isn't great, your answer to these questions may be the source of your struggle. Eating right and exercising are important mental health practices.
So, what does it mean to lead a healthy lifestyle? Health experts tell us that eating balanced meals and exercising a few times each week can make all the difference.
Mental and emotional benefits of exercise
There are various reasons to exercise, like staying healthy or losing weight. But did you know that exercise also helps your emotional and mental health?
The ability of exercise to reduce mental and physical stress has been well documented. Heading to the gym or working out on your home gym equipment can have a robust release on certain stress chemicals that help the brain moderate stress. Also, when putting the body under physical stress regularly, teaches the body how to recover and adapt to stress both physically and mentally.
Because of the body's need to recover from exercise, your brain will make you tired earlier and help you sleep more soundly throughout the night. The human body recovers at night when we sleep; this is the most profound effect of recovery from training sessions. Without sleep, you will not progress very far in your quest for fitness. Luckily your brain has your back on this one.
Exercise can increase the release of “happy chemicals” called endorphins. These endorphins release naturally by exercise and have been shown to reduce depression and increase feelings of “euphoria” post-workout. In addition, exercising outdoors can also give you a boost of happiness.
Better Self Confidence
Many factors make this a great benefit of exercise. First off, your social skills get a “workout” leading to more confidence in and out of the gym. You will likely be more confident in the gym environment which will carry over to other aspects of your career and personal life. Lastly, you will also be improving your positive self-image and self-talk, all the while increasing the perception of your self-worth.
Types of exercise for mental health
1. Running (or walking)
If you need the motivation to get moving, the 'runner's high' – the clarity and expansion one feels after a jog or sprint session – should do the trick.
The rumors that hitting a punchbag releases stress and anger is true. Finding an outlet for aggression can be both empowering and healing. Short, sharp 'rounds' of punching, followed by rest, results in an intense interval session, which releases endorphins. Boutique boxing classes are popping up everywhere, but local amateur boxing clubs are also a cost-effective way of releasing the rage safely.
The mental health benefits of Pilates often get overlooked because of the traditional focus on Pilates for back health and core strength.
One of the main reasons yoga helps us create better mental health is that it integrates body and mind, although it also works well when incorporated with talking therapy and meditation.
5. Sign up with The Fit Med personal wellness coaching
With my one-on-one coaching, we will begin by taking an assessment of the current challenges that you are facing to come up with solutions that will fit your lifestyle and help you reach your fitness goal. One size does not fit all! I will work with you one-on-one to create nutrition and fitness plans and check-in with you on a weekly basis through a Zoom or Facetime call to address any barriers you are facing. We will look at elements of your diet that can be improved by enriching the nutrition and improving your wellbeing. We will also look at opportunities to add fitness and workouts into your busy schedule.
6. Resistance training
Lifting weights or bodyweight exercises can have a huge impact on how you feel and look; building muscle and self-esteem as well as curbing anxiety. Recent research shows that low-moderate intensity resistance training produces reliable and robust decreases in anxiety, but there's also evidence to show it helps improve cognition and may improve the functioning of your central nervous system (which has a big impact on mood and fatigue levels).