The physical benefits of exercise have been widely reported. Exercise can help us maintain a healthy weight and decrease our chances of having certain illnesses. But it’s also vital in helping keep our minds healthy.
I know this one first hand. Weight lifting and yoga, for very different reasons, have been instrumental in helping me manage my bipolar. Focusing on my physical health gives me something to focus on that I can control. Yoga helps me quiet my mind, while weight lifting helps me get out aggression in a healthy way.
You can scroll through my Insta to see me talk about how fitness has helped me, but here are 5 ways working out your body works out your mind:
Exercise increases endorphins. To quote Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!” Comedy aside endorphins really do bring your mood up (it’s known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter for a reason!).
It’s a form of meditation. The point of meditation is not to just sit in silence and not have thoughts. Meditation is the practice of staying in the moment by not chasing our thoughts. Exercise gives us the chance to focus only at the task at hand, making it damn near impossible for our mind to wander off into all the things that are stressing you out.
Improves self-esteem. Talking from personal experience I feel like such a bad ass when I’m lifting weights. The reason why is two-fold for me. 1- I feel like amazing when I’m one of the only women in the weight room (BUT I also get really excited when there is another woman there with me!!!). I feel powerful and like I’m doing something I’m I shouldn’t be able to do. 2- When I feel physically strong I feel like I’m pushing myself through things that are hard to do. Lifting heavy weights is physically hard, and it’s also mental. When I push myself to do something physically hard I feel mentally proud of myself.
The other, more obvious way, that exercise improves self-esteem is the concept that we like the way we appear in the mirror the more we take care of our physical self. Weight lifting helps me on changing my physical appearance while yoga helps me like myself internally.
Improves sleep. Exercise strengthens circadian rhythms (your body’s internal clock), promoting daytime alertness and helping bring on sleepiness at night. Sticking to a regular routine (exercise and sleep wise) also greatly improves the quality of your sleep. For more tips to help you sleep better, click here to read about my sleep habit detox!
Relieves anxiety. More research needs to be done to explain exactly how exercise and anxiety impact each other, but all of the reasons about definitely do affect your stress and anxiety levels (even if we don’t know all the chemicals in the brain that are involved here). SO we do know there is a connection between increased physical activity leading to decreased levels of stress and anxiety and we know that all of the above bullet points are also related to lower anxiety levels. More exercise –> less anxiety/stress = strong correlation (in more scientific terms)!
Tell me in the comments how exercise has helped you mentally!