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8 Fabulous Mental Health Benefits of Exercise You Need to Know

8 Fabulous Mental Health Benefits of Exercise You Need to Know

Wanting to have a fit body is a fabulous reason to exercise, but weight-loss is only half of the story. Today, I invite you to discover the 8 mental health benefits of exercise you need to know.

1. Exercise Helps You Think Positive.

Exercise makes you feel alive and top of the world. For an example, look no farther than endurance athletes who often report experiencing “the runner’s high,” a feeling of complete calm or euphoria that sometimes takes hold of their body during a long run or race. According to a study by the journal Cerebral Cortex, this is because running causes your brain to release a rush of endorphins, the happy hormone that makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

2. Exercise Helps You Get Stuff Done.

Just 10 minutes of exercise can improve your concentration and mental strength, according to analysis of 19 studies published in the British Medical Journal. Do a few sets of squats or take a brisk walk while your morning coffee brews to get focused and ready for your day.

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3. Exercise Helps You Release Baggage.

Hit the gym or take a run if you find yourself feeling burdened because of financial stress, a crazy day at work, or a nasty fight with your partner. Channel your frustrated feelings into increased intensity during your training sessions if you’d like to turn a negative into a positive.

4. Exercise Helps You Improve Your Memory.

Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent cognitive decline as we age, according to Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” Research suggests that exercise results in the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical that rewires your memory circuits so they can work together more effectively.  All other things equal, any exercise is better than none; but this particular mental health benefits of exercise requires a consistent fitness plan including 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity for about 5 days per week.

5. Exercise Helps You Think Outside of the Box.

Got a big exam, speech, performance, or presentation coming up? You’d be wise to squeeze in a workout a couple hours before, because getting sweaty improves your creative capacity for up to 2 hours after a training session. Clear your mind by performing a few yoga poses a little while before your next big event.

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6. Exercise Helps You Relieve Stress and Anxiety.

Exercise could be more effective than any antidepressant on the market according to a study by Duke University published in the Journal Psychosomatic Medicine.  The Anxiety and Depression Association of America echos that sentiment:

“According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.” Source

7. Exercise Helps You Gain Confidence in Your Abilities.

Have you ever avoided going to a gym or exercise class because you were too embarrassed to work out in front of strangers? If so, I know the feeling; I was overweight for most of my life and avoided group fitness activities for the very same reason. But please realize that where you are starting from is irrelevant; the important thing is where you’re going. According to a study by the Journal of Health Psychology, it isn’t the weight lifted or speed reached that increases your confidence, but the simple act of exercising itself.

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8. Exercise Helps You Love and Accept Your Body as it is.

Comparison is the thief of joy, so stop comparing yourself to celebrities with figures that are out of reach. When you see scantily clad models in magazines, remember that the female photographed probably went through restrictive diets and fitness regimes (not to mention digital enhancements) in order to look the way they do.

When you see articles like “The Katy Perry Workout,” realize this routine was originally designed for a specific person (Katy Perry) with a specific body type. Even if you did the same workout as instructed, you could not reasonably expect to look like Katy Perry, because life just doesn’t work that way.

Comparisons aside, exercising will help you become more comfortable in your body. Whether you’re curvy, skinny, or muscular is irrelevant. Your body is a glorious vessel that will take care of you as long as you take care of it. Exercise is an expression of love for your body, as evidenced by the physical and mental benefits of the top three types of exercises listed below:

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Running will help you reduce anxiety, relieve depression, and live longer.

Lifting weights will help you improve heart health, protect your bones, and maintain a healthy weight.

Yoga will help you increase concentration, improve balance in older adults, and reduce back pain at work.

You would be wise to include all 3 of those things in your training. This will help you improve your speed, strength, and stamina; all while enjoying the wide variety of health benefits listed above.

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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