When we get stressed or depressed, the last thing we want to do is hit the gym. Depression can make us lose interest in the things we once enjoyed, such as running, lifting weights, or practicing yoga. However, sometimes breaking a sweat is just what we need to get out of our funk. Finding motivation can be challenging, but the mental health benefits of exercise are endless.
Cognitive Benefits of Exercise
We are all familiar with the physical benefits of exercise: weight loss, healthy blood pressure, increased energy, etc. But did you know that exercise plays a vital role in our mental health? Exercising releases feel-good hormones that can battle depression, relieve stress, and boost our mood.
Reduces depression and anxiety
Exercise is a natural mood booster that releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. Endorphins produce feelings of happiness and euphoria, which is why, no matter how hard we work out, we usually feel good right away. Our endorphin levels are high at this point, allowing us to feel our best even after a hard workout. Exercising regularly can increase our endorphin levels long-term, helping our brain reach a healthy homeostasis.
Healthy outlet for stress
Have you ever gotten so stressed that you want to scream? Exercising is a healthy outlet for this feeling! It allows us to take all of our negative energy and turn it into something useful that benefits our whole being. Working out also encourages the body’s central and sympathetic nervous systems to communicate, improving the body’s ability to respond to stress during and after the event. Our increased heart rate during exercise stimulates the production of neurohormones like norepinephrine, which improves mood and cognitive clarity, helping us to think through our stress more effectively.
It’s no secret that when we dedicate ourselves to working out and eating healthy, we will lose weight, increase muscle tone and look better overall. Improved endurance and increased strength can also help us gain confidence and view ourselves in a more positive light. Oftentimes, when we start working out, we feel better about ourselves before we begin seeing results.
Improved sleep quality
Difficulty sleeping can undoubtedly lead to stress and depression. Exercise can help regulate the circadian rhythm, which is our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. While working out is a great way to ensure a healthy amount of shuteye, you should avoid exercising close to bedtime as it may make falling asleep more difficult.
After a workout, you may notice that you feel good right away! However, to reap the endless benefits of exercise for mental health, working out has to be a regular part of your daily routine. Just 45 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week can work wonders for your self-esteem and cognitive health. Building and maintaining motivation can be challenging, especially for those just beginning a workout regimen. Joining group classes, recruiting a friend, or investing in a personal trainer are really great ways to get started and maintain motivation.
Our providers at Mile High Psychiatry want to help you become the best version of yourself. We do this through a combination of psychotherapy and cognitive tools, such as those gained by exercising. To learn more about our process or to request an appointment, contact us today.