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Exploring the Link Between Exercise and Mental Health

by Charlie Fletcher(more info)

listed in exercise and fitness, originally published in issue 285 - March 2023

 

We all deal with stress in our daily lives. Work can be overwhelming, you may butt heads with your family, and even our daily commute can fill us with anxiety and make life harder than it really should be. While we all deal with similar issues, it is important to keep your stress under control, or eventually, it can begin to have a detrimental impact on your mental health.

 

Morning Jog in the Countryside

Morning Jog in the Countryside

 https://unsplash.com/photos/mNGaaLeWEp0

Credit: Emma Simpson  on  Unsplash

 

There are many solutions that you can consider to improve your mental health, and one of them is a steady exercise routine. By prioritizing fitness in your busy schedule, you will find that you are more relaxed and level-headed throughout the day, and you may discover that you are happier than you were before. Let’s talk about the connection between exercise and mental health and the steps you can take to get in the right mind space.

Why We Get Stressed

The sad reality is that stress and anxiety are all too common in our society. We worry about making enough money, getting along with family and friends, and unexpected events like vehicle breakdowns and medical emergencies can cause havoc in our lives. The problem is that if left unchecked, anxiety can turn into depression, as more than 40 million Americans can attest. That is why it is important to get to the root of your stress.

For a lot of people, their stress is rooted in their day job. We want to impress our boss and be team players, and it can be tough to keep up a high standard of work every single day. Even the commute to work and the issues we face along the way can cause additional stress, and the constant sitting can lead to physical pain.

We also tend to work too much – often hours longer than our eight-hour day demands. If you work too hard for too long, then it is possible to develop burnout. When you are burned out, you lose motivation and your work could suffer even more due to your exhausted mental state. That is why it is important to start every day off right with a solid exercise routine.

How Exercise Can Improve Our Mental Health

Exercising may not be fun at first because you will need to get into a routine and get your body used to the movements and the effort that fitness routines often require. However, after you begin to make exercise part of your ongoing routine, you will find that you will feel better during your workout and for the rest of the day.

One of the reasons exercise can improve your mental health is that when you are active, your body reduces stress hormones like cortisol, which can help you to feel better overall. If your cortisol levels are high, then you are more at risk of chronic diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease. Also, elevated cortisol can impact your ability to sleep, concentrate, and stay energized. Dealing with all of these issues can impact your mental health and make you unhappy day after day.

In addition, regularly exercising provides a routine that may naturally benefit your mental health. Since most mental health challenges are often accompanied by low self-esteem, building confidence by achieving fitness goals will naturally alleviate these challenges. By setting fitness goals for yourself, like achieving distance goals for running or performing a predetermined number of pushups or sit-ups, you will be more excited about fitness, and you will continue to feel better mentally and physically.

Finding Ways to Exercise

Upon learning this information, you may be more inclined to exercise, but you may not think that you have enough time during the day to dedicate to fitness. The fact of the matter is that exercising 30 minutes a day for three to five days per week is enough to burn calories, get in better shape, and improve your mental health.

It is also important to remember that you don’t necessarily need to have an exhaustive daily routine to improve your body and mind. Even taking a daily walk around the block or through the park can have amazing health benefits. In addition to strengthening your muscles and losing weight, walking can also increase your chances of having a social life, and that companionship is essential to fight the possibility of loneliness and depression.

Parents can also do their part to help their kids get into the right mind frame when it comes to exercise and mental health. Tell your children about the importance of exercise and bring them on outdoor activities like camping or hikes through the park so they can see how fun exercise can be. Also, encourage your kids to make healthy decisions at school by encouraging them to enroll in sports programs and packing them healthy snacks like almonds, which will keep them full and energized. They will appreciate that their parents care about their well-being and those feelings of love and support are also good for their mental health.

As you can see, exercise is a very important part of a healthy mind and body. Consider the advice and the information described here, and you will feel better on all levels.

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About Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer passionate about workplace equity, and whose published works cover sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more. She may be contacted via charliefletcher365@gmail.com

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