It’s so easy to be put off exercise for the simple fact that it involves effort. Effort is something that doesn’t always come easy, especially when you are battling mental health issues. The trick is not to try to do too much. You don’t need to join the gym or sign up for expensive classes. All you need to do is go for a daily walk. I understand that even this can sometimes seem like too much effort, but if you can push yourself just a little bit there are many benefits to be had.
The hardest part is getting started, and often we will overthink and come up with many reasons why we can’t do it. Just try to clear your mind and put all of the negative thoughts aside and step out the door. Once you are walking you will find things become much easier, and it also becomes easier to push yourself to go out and walk the next day. Here are 7 benefits of exercise for mental health which make that daily walk very worthwhile.
Exercise Reduces Stress And Anxiety
Research has proven that exercise definitely helps to reduce stress and anxiety, among other benefits.
Exercise boosts endorphin production and also helps to increase serotonin levels. This leads directly to a reduction in stress and anxiety.
I also find when going for my regular walk that it is great thinking time for me. By walking I am already doing something positive for myself, so it puts my mind in a great place to think about and process whatever other problems I may be dealing with. It is also a way of being mindful, as when I walk I am present and noticing the movement of my body or all of the different sights around me.
The other benefit here for your anxiety is that going out to exercise (such as a daily walk) acts like exposure therapy for your anxiety. Sometimes leaving the house is an anxiety provoking event, so being able to leave the house and walk outside on a daily basis is a way of exposing yourself to that. The more you do it, the less likely it is to trigger your anxiety. And when leaving the house does cause anxiety, it is likely to be far less severe if you have already exposed yourself to that situation successfully a number of times. Each time you go for a walk just makes it easier to go the next time, so if you can get over that initial hurdle you will be doing a lot to reduce your stress and anxiety.
Exercise Improves Mood
Usually within just 5 minutes after exercising you get a mood boosting effect. It has also been proven many times that people who exercise regularly have better mental health than those who don’t. Exercising releases endorphins, which help you to feel good and improve your mood. It also helps to release other feel good chemicals into the brain that can boost your overall sense of wellbeing.
Exercise Helps You To Sleep Better
While it is not fully understood the link between better sleep patterns and exercise, it has definitely been established that the link is there. Research has shown that just a moderate amount of exercise is one of the most effective ways to treat insomnia. Exercise also increases the amount of time you are in a deep sleep, so not only is it easier to sleep, but you will find you will get a more refreshing and energizing sleep if you are exercising regularly.
Exercise Gives You More Energy
I know it seems a little bit silly that if you are exercising regularly and using your energy for it that you will have more energy. It would make more sense that you would have less energy because you have used it all up to exercise. This is not the case however. When you exercise, your body delivers oxygen and vital nutrients to your tissues. This helps your cardiovascular system to work more effectively and efficiently. With a better performing cardiovascular system and improved heart and lung health, you will have more energy to get through the day.
Exercise Improves Your Self Esteem
According to research, regular physical activity is directly related to a boost in self esteem. Exercising regularly will give you a sense of achievement and accomplishment. It’s not always easy to get motivated enough to exercise, but if you can achieve that goal you will naturally feel better about yourself and feel like you have achieved something. Doing this regularly or even on a daily basis only adds to that sense of accomplishment and achievement. Once you are in this improved state of mind, there is a flow on effect to the rest of your thoughts, and you will find that thinking positively about yourself only becomes easier.
Exercise Helps With Weight Loss
It is obviously proven that regular exercise helps to promote weight loss. Exercising for just thirty minutes each day will help, even more so if you are eating the right foods and managing your diet carefully. If you are somebody who is trying to lose weight you will be able to feel better about yourself as you achieve this goal. The benefits of regular exercise are not just for mental health, there is obviously the physical benefit of exercising regularly to consider as well.
Exercise Improves Memory Function And Alertness
Research has found that exercising regularly can boost the size of the hippocampus (yeah that’s a thing!). This is the area of the brain that boosts memory function and learning. This means you will be able to think sharper and more clearly, and have less brain fog so therefore will be able to learn new things more easily.
How To Get Motivated To Exercise When Depressed
I get it. It is so hard just to get started. Your head is filled with negative thoughts and your brain just keeps coming up with reason after reason for why you should not go and exercise today. You know you will be glad that you did it if you can find the motivation, but that doesn’t come very easily. Here are a couple of tips for how to get motivated to exercise when depressed.
Take a friend. Having a walking buddy will make you more accountable and less likely to cancel. You don’t want to let other people down, so you are far more likely to keep a regularly scheduled walk with your friend.
Commit to a week. Sometimes it can seem like too much to change your whole lifestyle. So just focus on doing it for one week and commit to it. What you will find is that it won’t be particularly easy that week, especially at the start, but as the week goes on you will find it becomes more and more easy. So by the time week 2 rolls around, you will have had the benefits of exercising the previous week and will then find it much more easy to get out and exercise in week 2 and beyond.
Write down your goals. If you want to exercise 5 times in a week, write it down and write down which particular days you have chosen to do it. Then when you achieve that goal each day, you can either cross it off the list or tick the checkbox beside it. This will give you a real sense of accomplishment and it helps to boost your motivation to keep achieving your goal.
Just do it. Understand that the more you think about it the harder it will become as those negative thoughts start to take over. So focus yourself, clear your mind, put your walking shoes on and get out there. Do your best to avoid thinking about it and just focus on taking action. It will only get easier each time, so put the effort in early and you will benefit for a long time to come.