How Does Exercise Help With Mental Health? - Reboot Fitness Coaching

How Does Exercise Help With Mental Health?

We know there are trillions (not literally) of benefits to purposefully moving your body, but how does exercise help with mental health?

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, so let’s take a look at all the different ways exercise can make us feel better mentally, not just it’s effect on how we look…

1. A WELCOME DISTRACTION

Let’s face it, on a day to day basis there could be anywhere between 5 and 5,000 things that stress you out, get on your nerves, or just downright p*ss you off (e.g. buying your friend’s son a birthday card only for the envelope to go blowing down the street… yup! that just happened to me 🙄).

Me watching my envelope do it’s thing…

It’s easy for those things to play on your mind.

So when you’re asking how does exercise help with mental health, distraction is top of the list for me.

Whether you’re just going for a walk, or you’re doing a full-on gym session, exercise takes your mind off the immediate problems your facing, and focuses you on something different.

Even if it’s only a brief relief, I’m sure you’d agree, any break is a welcome one.

2. SET THE MOOD

My general vibe would have been improved instantly if I’d taken off running and caught up with that envelope, instead of dopily watching it blow over a wall and out of sight 😣.

But there are less obvious effects exercise has on your mood too.

Certain hormones and chemicals are released by our bodies when we exercise. Serotonin for instance is linked to feelings of happiness (among other things).

The more we exercise, the more of this “feel-good” stuff we have in our bodies, and the better our general mood will ultimately be.

3. LIKE A BABY

My best night’s sleep is usually after a decent gym sesh, or football training.

As soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m out like a light (and probably snoring…).

And it’s not a coincidence.

After exercise you need to recover, and one of the best ways to do that is through sleep. So your body will do it’s best to make sure you get some decent shut-eye.

The fact that you’re more tired at the end of the day, coupled with the stress relieving chemicals released during exercise means you’ll be off to the land of nod quicker than usual.

A good night’s sleep means your mood will be better the next day, your thought processes will be sharper and you’ll have much more energy, which are all great for your mental health.

4. CHIN UP, CHEST OUT

Nothing will intrinsically build your self-esteem as fast as being able to lift a weight you couldn’t last week.

Or run a certain distance faster than before.

But even if you’re not setting personal records, the simple act of setting up a regular exercise program and sticking to it will give you a feeling of achievement that will reach out into other areas of your life…

5. CONNECT FOR THE AFTER-EFFECTS

Last but not least, exercise can offer connection that maybe you’re currently missing out on.

That could be connection with like-minded individuals or groups trying to achieve the same goals you are.

Or it could be with people who’ve been through similar things to you, who can help you deal with it.

But if you don’t like people (I know there’s lots of you out there, haha!) it’s not just a human connection that can have a positive effect on your mental health.

For Mental Health Awareness Week this year, the theme is nature. Why? Because being in and around/connecting with the natural world can have a seriously strong outcome.

Creating a mini jungle in your bedroom can be a good start (which I’m trying out with limited success. Did someone say: “Overwatering”?! 😫) .

But actually getting outside and combining nature with exercise is a great way to increase that feeling of connection.

WHAT NEXT

As you can see, there are lots of ways exercise can help with your mental health.

If you’re not currently exercising, head here for some advice on getting started.

If you’ve exercised before but you’ve taken a break recently, then check out this post on how to head back to the gym and get all those mental health benefits…

If you found this helpful, share it with someone else 🙂

About the Author Alvin Nurse

Alvin runs Reboot Fitness Coaching and has been a Fitness Coach since 2010. When not helping awesome people in their 30s rejuvenate their bodies, you'll find him listening to music, chasing a ball, or avoiding runny yolks...

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