Exercising is my favourite self-care activity, because it’s great for your mind and body in so many different ways.
Everyone knows that physical activity can make you stronger and help you lose weight. According to an article on MedlinePlus, it can also reduce your risk of falls, heart disease and some cancers, as well as help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels, improve your sexual health and increase your chances of living longer. Cognitively, it helps you keep your thinking, learning and judgement skills sharp as you age.
When I go to the gym, though, it’s all about the mental benefits. It makes me feel so good. The differences in how I feel mentally before, during and after are huge. Here are some of the ways that exercising benefits me mentally:
It can alleviate some symptoms of depression.
It releases endorphins, which is a chemical in your brain that makes you feel good and happy.
It relieves tension, stress, anxiety and frustration.
Exercise relaxes your muscles and relieves tension in your body.
You can also add mindfulness elements to your exercises and focus on those, instead of the anxious thoughts running through your head.
Frustrated or angry about something? Take it out on a punching bag. Other exercises that make you sweat can help with this, too.
It serves as a distraction from everyday life and from your thoughts.
Make the time that you spend exercising about you. Try not to think about anything else that you may have going on. If you can, put your phone on silent or Do Not Disturb mode.
It boosts confidence and self-esteem.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, think about how good you feel. It also makes you feel a sense of achievement.
It encourages better sleep.
According to an article on Psychology Today, exercise “can strengthen circadian rhythms, promoting daytime alertness and helping bring on sleepiness at night.”
It can help inspire others to do the same.
An article on HuffPost Life says:
“Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actually raise athletes’ tolerances for pain. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving!”
So, how much physical activity do you really need?
It depends on your age and your abilities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put together a guideline that outlines this, as well as other useful information here.
If you don’t feel like going through the whole guideline, experts generally say to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day (or 210 minutes per week, depending on your schedule).
However, as I learned from Kati Morton’s video this week (linked below), you don’t need to do a high-intensity workout. Something simple, like going for a 30-minute walk or doing any other type of movement that you enjoy, is enough.
There are lots of benefits to exercising. So, I highly encourage you to try it!
Kati’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTDKr5NAgHw
Another good article about the mental health benefits of exercise:
 Breus, M. (2013). Better Sleep Found by Exercising on a Regular Basis. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/sleep-newzzz/201309/better-sleep-found-exercising-regular-basis-0