It’s no secret a lot of people exercise for aesthetic and physical reasons.
However, rather than viewing exercise as a means of losing weight or ‘getting fit’, I prefer to conceptualise exercise as a daily habit which enhances my frame of mind, reduces stress and generally just makes me feel happier.
While the physical benefits are a welcome side-effect, the greatest benefits of exercise are the mental ones:
- Exercises reduces anxiety: Studies have revealed a meaningful link between exercise and stress / anxiety reduction. When we’re stressed, natural chemicals like adrenalin build up in the body. Exercise releases these chemicals – even going for a light walk when feeling particularly anxious can immediately relieve symptoms.
- Exercise makes you feel good: as well as giving you a sense of accomplishment and improving self-esteem, exercise produces endorphins which make you feel positive and reduces pain (a very similar effect to morphine). Here’s a handy tip – on the days you don’t feel like exercising, eating chocolate and having sex are both activities which also produce endorphins.
- Exercise improves concentration: physical exercise creates new, excitable neurons in the hippocampus which is the part of the brain responsible for thinking and emotional responses. As well as keeping stress at bay, these neurons assist in concentration and alertness, which is why you might find you’re more productive at work if you get some early morning exercise in.
- Exercise improves sleep: most importantly of all, exercise encourages a better quality of sleep (and nothing is more important than sleep when it comes to physical and emotional wellbeing). However, it’s important not to exercise too late in the evening, as this can have the reverse impact by disrupting sleep patterns.
Slow and steady exercise, without overdoing it, is one of the most powerful tools for achieving a healthy mindset.