Feel the Burn, Boost Your Brain: Why Exercise Rocks Your Mental Health

Looking good is great, but did you know exercise is a total game-changer for your mind too? Exercise isn’t just about physical health. This is about pulling yourself up by your sneakers (or best gym shoes) and unlocking a treasure trove of benefits for your mind.

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise:

Sweat Out Sadness:
Okay, not to minimize feeling down. It’s just that exercise can be a natural mood booster. A recent study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America showed that a brisk 10-minute walk could provide a similar benefit to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise, having a significant positive effect.

I know that when you’re feeling down that the gym is the last place you want to be. Fair enough, but remember that this is an investment in yourself. Here’s a tip: the 10-minute rule. As mentioned prior about that brisk 10-minute walk, how about committing to 10 minutes of exercise. Can you give yourself just 10 minutes? And then when you get to that point, can you keep going? Awesome! If not, don’t beat yourself up. Take it as a small win. Even a short burst can give you that endorphin boost to want to keep going another day.

Chill Out with Exercise:
Exercise is your anxiety antidote. Feeling stressed can spike your cortisol levels, which is the fight-or-flight hormone. Chronically high cortisol wreaks havoc on your health, it can contribute to overall irritability, and lead you down a path of some not-so savory decisions such as grabbing foods that don’t actually nourish you. Exercise naturally reduces cortisol, so you can ditch the stress and ditch the donuts.

How much exercise are we talking about?
Many experts recommend 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Short on time? Break it up! Do 5-10 minute bursts throughout the day. Do you have a dog? How about taking them for a walk? Are you someone that likes to jump on a call with family or friends? I’m sure they would be more than understanding if you ended up taking that call on a brisk stroll around your neighborhood.

Confidence Boost, Level Up!
Every workout you finish is a win for you. This accomplishment builds self-confidence. Remember, it’s not a competition (even if you’re training for something). Focus on your own progress and celebrate your milestones. This isn’t about competing with the person next to you, this is about showing up and trying to be better than you were yesterday.

Find Your Fitness Family:
Do you have co-workers that like to workout? Even if you start out on this journey alone, the gym or a fitness class can be a great way to meet people who share your goals. Plus, having a workout buddy keeps you accountable. Skipping a workout is a lot harder when you have a friend meeting you. Bonus: this should go without saying, but friendships boost your mental health by providing a sense of community and belonging.

Sharpen Your Focus:
Exercise pumps blood to your brain, delivering oxygen to those busy neurons. The increased blood flow also reduces insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which can zap your focus. Regular exercise can even increase the size of the brain regions involved in memory and cognition.

Sleep Like a Rock:
This is where the re-building happens. Lack of sleep can leave you feeling foggy and irritable. Studies show insufficient sleep is linked to various mental health issues. Getting enough sleep is crucial for feeling your best, mentally and physically. Guess what? Exercise promotes better sleep. Putting in the work will make catching those Zzz’s even better.

Body confidence is certainly something that many of us are striving for, but if we’re feeling stressed or down then it’s going to be harder to make the decisions that help us achieve our goals. One thing I can share with you personally is that I’ve never left the gym or come up from my basement after a workout and regretted it. Put a win in the books for yourself and sweat your way to a healthier you.

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