You know that exercise is healthy for your body, but don’t forget that it’s also a great way to manage stress, anxiety and mood.
Top 10 reasons to exercise for your psychological health:
- Feels good. When you get your heart pumping your body releases endorphins (those ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain). Endorphins trigger positive feelings. People feel better on the days they exercise because they have more endorphins floating around.
- Boosts self-confidence. It feels good when you accomplish exercise goals that you set for yourself. Even if you had a crappy day and you still managed to make it for a 15 minute run, you feel pretty proud of yourself.
- Lowers stress. When you workout regularly, you are less reactive to intense emotions and stress. Things just roll of your back more easily.
- Decreases your odds of getting sick. When you get sick, it’s easier to get cranky or just feel ‘blah’. Good news - people who exercise regularly get sick less often.
- Better sleep. Exercise increases your sleep drive. You can fall asleep more easily, AND sleep more deeply. And we all know a good night’s sleep helps you to cope better with life and improves your mood.
- Reduces depression and anxiety. Exercise changes the chemistry in our brain, resulting in a calming effect and reduction in feelings of anxiety. It also increases feel good chemicals in the brain and reduces chemicals that worsen symptoms of depression.
- Improves learning. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. More energy to the brain = increased brain functioning. Your memory will be sharper and your ability to concentrate will be enhanced, making it easier to learn.
- More energy. Feeling too tired to exercise? Yes, it’s true that it takes some energy to get going, but exercise actually leads to more energy overall. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime, as that’ll get you too revved up to sleep.
- Increases social interactions. Exercise is a great activity to do with friends, and hanging out with others is a major mood booster!
- Gives you a break. We all need a break from our worries and things that stress us out. Exercise absorbs your attention so it gets your mind off stuff.
But I’m not a gym person. I’m way too self-conscious there. Exercise doesn’t have to be hanging out at a gym running on a treadmill or lifting weights. Exercise is anything that gets your body moving.
Here are some ideas to get you moving:
- Skate boarding
- Lifting weights
- Martial arts
- Paddle boarding
- Roller blading
- Rock climbing
Change how you think about exercise. Exercise doesn’t need to be a continuous 30 or 60 minutes a day. It can be spurts of activity throughout the day or anything that gets you moving and ups your heart rate even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes.
- Start small. 10 or 15 minutes of activity here or there is a great way to start.
- Set goals. We’re way more likely to do something if we set clear, concrete goals (for example, plan ahead to go hiking with friends on Saturday morning at 11 am or sign up for the yoga class Wednesday night at 6 pm).
- Be realistic. If you’re not used to exercising, aiming to workout 5 days a week is unrealistic. Instead, try starting with 1 or 2 days at first.
- Experiment with different things to find something you like.
- Join a team or gym, take a class, and get an exercise buddy. Community Centres often have fun and affordable classes.
- Try out some games or workout programs on your Xbox connect, PlayStation, or Wii. Or try some workout DVDs or download some workout apps.
- Mix it up to keep it interesting – exercise doesn’t have to feel like exercise.
- It may take a little time to notice the benefits of exercise – so stick with it.
- Find little ways to increase your activity level during the day. Try parking further from the mall, take the stairs, walk home for school or work, or get off a few stops early and walk home.