Chances are you know a lot about all the physical health benefits of exercise — losing weight, building strength, increasing your metabolism and improving your stamina, to name just a few. But how much do you know about the incredible mental health benefits of exercise? From increasing energy and improving sleep to reducing depression and anxiety, regular physical activity does as much good for your mind’s wellness as it does for your body. In this article, we’ll discuss the most vital mental health benefits of exercise and how exercise can help improve the way you feel in your body and brain.
Improve Your Mood
One of the best mental health benefits of exercise is that it enhances your mood. Along with improving your physical health and wellness, exercising regularly can help you feel more positive and content overall. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, a natural “feel-good” chemical that boosts your mood. Regular exercise also increases your energy, improves your sleep, and even helps you think more clearly. Together, these benefits help improve your mental outlook, sense of well-being, and quality of life.
Increase Self Confidence
Research shows that setting and achieving goals builds self-confidence and self-esteem. So, in addition to improving the way you look and feel, exercise also makes you feel more capable. And you don’t have to set big goals to experience this benefit. Even something as simple as agreeing to show up to class once a week can cause your mental health to soar because you’re setting off the award system in your brain for achieving a goal.
Sometimes when goals are massive – such as “I want to lose 50 pounds” – you can feel burdened and overwhelmed. By setting and achieving these minor goals of showing up to a fitness class when you say you are, you’ll be enhancing your confidence in your own capabilities and building self-esteem.
This is especially important to remember if you’re new to exercising, just getting back into working out, dealing with a health condition, or recovering from surgery or an injury. Working out at your own pace for 30 minutes a couple of times a week can be a great first step. Then, once that becomes a regular habit, you can set a new goal.
Of course, it goes without saying that an active lifestyle also makes you feel better in your body. There are amazing mental health benefits of exercise like being happier with the way you look and feel, which carries with you through the rest of the activities in your life, whether you’re asking for more money at work or going out on a new date.
Manage Anxiety and Stress
Take a second and think about how your body feels when you are anxious or stressed. For most of us, our muscles tense up, especially in our shoulders, neck, and face. Some of us also experience physical side effects like headaches, stomach problems, a pounding heart, difficulty breathing, dizziness, insomnia, heartburn, and more.
Important mental health benefits of exercise are that exercise releases the tension that causes these issues to build up and become unbearable. As you’re working out, you’re sweating out all the built-up anxiety of the day and becoming more relaxed and at ease.
Natural chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, the body’s “feel good” hormones that contribute to feelings of euphoria, also come into play here. In addition to helping increase your blood flow and relax your muscles, exercising releases naturally occurring chemicals that help relieve stress and pain, and also boost your mood. In a literal sense, exercise makes both your body and your mind feel better, serving as a natural combative for anxiety and depression.
Improve Your Mental Focus
Do you sometimes struggle to stay focused on one task at a time? Do you find yourself mentally scattered and pulled in a bunch of different directions? One of the best mental health benefits of exercise is it helps improve mental focus. Physical activity increases the amount of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in your brain, which has a positive impact on your ability to concentrate and pay attention. They also help improve your memory, mood and motivation, making it easier to focus on a variety of tasks.
Studies have shown that exercise builds brain cells and can contribute to overall brain performance. With regular cardiovascular exercise, you’ll find that your memory improves, learning becomes easier, and focus is not as difficult as it once was.
Learn to Practice Mindfulness
One way to boost the mental health benefits of exercise, even more is to practice mindfulness while you’re working out. Mindfulness is a kind of meditation where you focus on what you are sensing and feeling in the present moment.
Yoga, tai chi, and Fight & Flow are good examples of workouts that integrate mindfulness into their movements and exercises. When taking a Fight and Flow class, you’ll be focusing on guided imagery while combining elements of Tai Chi and other breathing exercises. As you become more accustomed to the class, you will be able to really focus on your breathing, inhaling and exhaling to create the most effective routine and slip deeper into meditative focus.
But you can practice mindfulness during any type of physical activity or workout by simply trying to focus and clear your mind of outside distractions. For example, if you’re jumping rope to warm up for a boxing or kickboxing class, try paying attention to the rhythm of the rope hitting the floor or the way your feet feel as they jump.
By focusing your awareness on what your body is experiencing in the moment, you can give your mind (and yourself) a break from the constant buzz of thoughts and worries that busy most of our brains. Mental Health is such an important aspect of our daily life that it is vital we try to remember life is all about balance.
Access All the Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
Now that you know more about the valuable mental health benefits of exercise, you can begin to establish an exercise program and figure out what types of physical activity and workouts you enjoy the most. As you get more experienced with exercising, you can begin exploring and trying new workouts to add to your routine. Including workouts of varying intensity, say yoga and kickboxing, will ensure that you have an assortment of options to balance your physical and mental health needs.
At X3 Sports, we offer a diverse array of classes to keep you active, engaged, motivated and — most importantly — happy. If you are interested in starting an exercise program but don’t know where to begin, we would love to help you discover which activities (or combination of classes) maximize the mental health benefit of exercise for you. Book your first class with X3 Sports for free today to see if a membership is right for you!