by Sean Flint of The BXING Club
It’s 2021 - we’re always looking for ways to step up our game for our physical and mental health. It’s always a bonus when both physical and mental health are prioritized. Ahhh, gotta love efficiency, right? *Inserts exercise here* - Exercise is more than heart rate and weight loss. While those two can be very important, it is also important to note the massive mental health impacts that can be gained from regular exercise. The best part is that it’s not exclusive to anyone in particular - it’s universal. Specifically, exercising regularly has a profound impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It is recommended that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most days.
Exercise and depression
A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk for major depression by 26%. Exercise can positively impact depression by also providing a maintained schedule to prevent relapse. Exercise is known as a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Firstly, getting a good leg day in or getting that heartrate going promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, such as neutral growth, reduced inflammation, and changing activity patterns that can help bring feelings of calm and well-being. Endorphins, powerful chemicals related to emotions, are released during exercise. Plus, when one is plugged in during a serious lift or run, exercise can serve as a distraction to cut out the noise and prioritize you.
Exercise and anxiety
Exercise is probably one of the best and natural anti-anxiety treatments. The healing properties of exercise include relieving tension and stress, boosting physical and mental energy, and enhancing well-being through the release of endorphins. The most ideal scenario is when physical exercise combines moving with paying attention. You can find this by paying attention the sensation of your feeling your heels on the ground when going into a squat or the rhythm of your breathing as you change from jog to run, or the feeling of sweat dripping down your skin. Adding a mindfulness element, really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise will help to interrupt the flow of anxiety.
Exercise and stress
It’s not our favorite thing to do, but take yourself back to a time where you were stressed. Your muscles were probably tense, especially in the face, neck and shoulders. Your back may have been acting up or painful headaches were a part of your day. Accompanied by tightness in the chest, muscle cramps, stomach pains, etc., these physical symptoms can then lead to more stress. Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle and release endorphins to the brain to help relax the muscles / relieve tension within the body. The body and mind are so closely linked that when your body feels better, your mind may also. Despite suffering from a mental illness or not, exercising is still a fantastic way to keep your mental toughness up. Regular physical activity can offer a boost to your mood, outlook, and overall meaning.
When you think exercising, also think …
Sharper memory & thinking: The same good-feeling endorphins also help you concentrate and stay mentally sharp for a variety of tasks. Getting your steps in everyday or other activity can also stimulate the growth of new brain cells and prevent age-related decline.
Self-esteem is connected to an investment of your entire being - mind, body and soul. With exercise, prioritizing and creating time for this habit can foster your sense of self worth and keep you feeling strong / powerful. You’ll look and feel better. Does it really get better than that?
In a world that seems to be on a mission to compete about who can get the least amount of sleep, short bursts of exercise can help regulate sleep patterns.
Energy drink or exercise *insert shrug here*. Increasing your heart rate multiple times throughout the week will give you more energy to do the things that you want to do.
Life happens to all of us and there are times when it can be really tough. Exercising is a fantastic way to greet mental or emotional challenges with structure and resilience instead of restoring to poor behaviors that do not serve us.
It’s Tough to Start
Making a way for exercise to be part of the daily routine, especially when experiencing a mental illness, can be tricky. Some of us even find that it’s tough to exercise when we seem to be at our best. Here are some tips:
Setting major goals tied to exercising when starting out is like saying you’re going to cook a five course meal when you’re just learning how to cook. Focus on setting achievable goals that are realistic and can be celebrated.
Learn when your energy seems to be the highest. For some, it’s first thing in the morning or some people would rather do a mid-afternoon workout. Even if it’s something small, stick to your schedule and move a little.
Pick something enjoyable
If you are the world’s biggest fan of hating running, please do not pick your choice of exercise to run 3 miles a day. Any activity that gets you moving counts, but it doesn’t have to be one that you dread.
Wear clothes that are comfortable for you as well as clothes that make you feel good. If you feel the most confident in a T-shirt, go with that. If you like to have a matchy-match set, you know what the answer is.
Exercising is tough and so are you. Find a healthy reward for yourself and make sure to give credit where and when it is due. This is all for you, remember that.
Always remember, you don’t have to spend hours in a gym or force yourself into doing the most difficult / boring workouts. Find different ways to get your mind and body moving that are realistically a part of your routine.