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Get Healthy And Chill: How Exercise Boosts Mental Health

May 17, 2022

Some stress is a normal, healthy part of everyday life. Feeling nervous or stressed before a first date, when working toward a deadline, or before speaking in public.

Prolonged, chronic stress, however, can be tough on the body. Symptoms of chronic stress may include high blood pressure, chest pain, digestive problems, and sleep issues. The symptoms of chronic stress aren’t just physical—many people who live with chronic stress find that they deal with anxiety and panic, as well as depression.

It makes sense that many people who deal with chronic stress turn to unhealthy methods of stress management. Quelling stress can feel urgent, and it can be easy to turn to quick-fix options to get rid of stress fast. Overeating, over or under sleeping, drinking too much alcohol, and spending too much time on social media can all provide a temporary break from stress. While these quick fixes work in the short-term, the stress eventually comes back with a vengeance.

Thankfully, there’s a better way. Working out can help to manage stress, and the mood-boosting effects of exercise last long after you finish your last set. Here, we’ll take a look at exactly how working out can benefit your mental health and help to manage your stress.

Disclaimer: Daily life stress is normal and can be well-managed with exercise. If you’re in a crisis, thinking about harming yourself or someone else, or need help navigating through a difficult time, reach out to your local crisis hotline for immediate assistance.

Exercise boosts serotonin production, helping to lift mood.

Research shows that physical activity can help boost the production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical that can help with stress relief. Exercise also helps to increase the activity of neurons that fire serotonin, meaning that while the production of the chemical is increased, the brain is also able to receive and process it at a higher rate. Put simply: exercise helps increase the flow of happiness in your brain.

If you’ve ever worked out regularly and felt a dip in your mood when taking a week off, you’ve likely noticed the change in your mood. The more often you work out, the more you’re able to maintain a higher level of serotonin in the brain. It’s key to work with your personal trainer to help develop a sustainable exercise plan that makes sense for you, allowing your body and brain to know that regular doses of serotonin-boosting exercise are always just around the corner.

Exercise can improve sleep quality.

Regular exercise doesn’t just help you fall asleep faster when you crawl into bed at night—it can help increase the quality of your sleep, allowing you to wake up feeling rested in the morning, according to the latest research.

Researchers aren’t sure why exercise improves sleep, but some hypothesize that the stress mitigating effects of a good workout could help to calm the mind, resulting in an easier time sleeping through the night. Good sleep helps the brain and body heal, and falling asleep in a reasonable amount of time (and enjoying high-quality sleep) can help to boost mental health, making it easier to deal with day-to-day stress.

It’s important to listen to your body when it comes to the ways that exercise can affect your sleep. While most people find that a good workout helps them get a fantastic night of rest, others find that working out too late in the day amps them up, making it difficult to fall asleep. If you’ve noticed that working out with your personal trainer leaves you too pumped to hit the sack on time, talk about switching up your training time to earlier in the day, or saving less intense workouts for your evening sessions.

Regular exercise can improve self-esteem and create a sense of accomplishment.

Getting started with a regular workout routine takes commitment, and sticking to your routine over time takes persistence. Each time you go to a training session, group fitness class, or hit up the gym, you’re honoring a commitment that you made to yourself.

When you stick to your workouts, you’re showing yourself that you have what it takes to accomplish big goals. This can spill over into other areas of life, making it easier for you to take on new and difficult challenges.

If you’re finding that you’re struggling to stick to a regular workout routine, be sure to talk with a fitness professional about developing a routine that makes sense for your lifestyle and schedule.

Putting it into action: How much exercise is necessary for mental health benefits?

Believe it or not, it doesn’t take much time to reap the mental health benefits of physical exercise. Moderate-intensity exercise—like going for a fast walk for half an hour three or four times each week—is enough to provide you with the stress-busting mental health care that you need to deal with standard life stress.

If you find that longer or more intense workout sessions are even better for your mental health, feel free to go big! Pay attention to how your body feels, and if long or super-intense workout sessions start to cause more stress than they remove, you may want to consider scaling back.

Ready To Take Action? We’ve Got You.

At Fitness Together® studios, we know that there are many reasons you work out. While it’s easy to focus on the physical benefits of exercise, we’re here to support your mental health as well. Reach out to us today to discuss what you want to get out of your workout. Whether you’re looking for a physical goal, a way to manage stress, or both, we’re here to help you get where you want to be, one rep at a time.

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