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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.

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Daniel Wallen

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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