The Mental Health Benefits of Physical Exercise

January 14, 2021

We all know how getting regular exercise can help with our physical health. But living an active lifestyle can be just as beneficial for our mental health too. During particularly challenging times, such as these, staying active can be a wonderful way to cope. There are many ways in which regular exercise can reduce anxiety and depression. In this article we will list some of the mental health benefits and give our tips for how to maintain an active lifestyle.

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is known to decrease stress hormones, like cortisol. Being active releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals, that can significantly boost our moods. Physical activity can also be a healthy distraction from negative thoughts and emotions. It can help us redirect our energy to the present moment. Getting moving and being active, even for just 30 minutes a day, is a wonderful way to relieve stress and feel more in tune with our bodies and mind.

Tips for Maintaining an Active Lifestyle

Consider FITT

Before diving into a new exercise routine, take a moment to pause and consider FITT. Think through the frequency (how often you can devote to exercising), intensity (how intensely you want to exercise), type (what kind of exercise you want to do), and time (how long you can devote to exercising). Making a plan ahead of time for how we want to be active and incorporate exercise into our routine will help us set up a structure that fits our unique needs. The FITT guideline will allow us to make SMART goals, creating goals for ourselves that are realistic and measurable.

Find a Friend to Join You

One way to stay motivated with physical exercise, is to do it with someone else or with a group. Because of the pandemic, we may be unable to safely take big workout classes or get a group together in person, but we can still enlist the people we live with to join us. Or perhaps you could find a friend to FaceTime while you both do the same workout, so that you can hold each other accountable. Or you could go on a socially distant walk with a friend too. There are still ways to get creative and safely exercise with the company of others. Having a friend with similar goals as you is a great way to stay motivated and make exercise fun.

Try Different Things

While it’s helpful to plan out how you want to exercise, sometimes we can still get into a rut and find ourselves unmotivated. If we feel stuck, it helps to switch up how we exercise. You can try out different workout times or types of exercises to see what you enjoy most. It may help to try an array of different ways to be active in order to discover what motivates you the most and what is the most fulfilling for you.

Take It One Step At a Time

It’s important to not overdo it when it comes to exercise, since it could lead to physical injury. Be practical about what you take on and know that it is okay to start small. You can always build up to more intense exercises over time. One small step is better than staying in the same place, so pace yourself and be kind to yourself throughout the process.

Exercise can be a part of our personal toolkit to combat stress and other negative emotions. It is a wonderful way to practice self-care and take care of both our bodies and minds.

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