Exercise isn't just about muscle size or how good you look on your Instagram feed! Sure it will improve your physical health, help you lose weight, and even improve your sex life. But those things aren't usually quite enough motivation to stay active.
There are many benefits to exercise that will improve your overall feeling of wellness. Improved energy levels, better sleep quality, sharper memory and lots more. But right now as we are living through a pandemic, exercise has never been more important. Exercise can make you feel generally more relaxed and positive and who doesn't need that right now?
So let's talk about the mental health benefits of exercise. No matter your age, or your fitness level, you can use exercise as a really powerful tool to deal with mental health problems and get more out of life! Even the strongest people have the odd down day, down week, or down year - particularly when live throws us such a curveball as Covid.
Did you know that exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication for mild to moderate depression? Something as simple as walking for just 15 minutes a day can reduce depression by an amazing 25%! So you don't have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits of regular exercise. It's the 'regular' that's the key.
How does this work? Exercise actually creates changes in your brain including reducing inflammation and lots of other super benefits. But the real benefit comes from creating a new activity pattern that promotes feelings of calm and wellbeing.
Give it a try. Set yourself a challenge of doing 15-30 minutes of exercise a day and keep a diary about how you are feeling. at the end of the week, take a look back and you'll probably be surprised at what you read.
Whilst simply making time for regular exercise can help reduce your levels of anxiety, there's a way to really make exercise work even harder for you! Use exercise as a mindfulness session. How? Instead of zoning out when you exercise, try to focus on the sensations. Your feet hitting the ground, the wind on your skin (if you're outside of course) or the rhythm of your breathing.
Not only will this improve your physical condition, you will also then be able to interrupt any flow of negative thoughts. It's a good practice to use again and again through times of raised anxiety.
How do you feel when you are stressed? Tight muscles, sore body, headaches? Or worse still increased levels of stress can actually cause chest tightness and a pounding heart beat. Which as you can imagine, just increases your stress even more due to the worry of the symptoms. You're stuck in a vicious circle!
STOP! Break the cycle with exercise. Exercise can actually help relieve the muscle tension associated with stress and if your body feels better, then your mind will no doubt follow.