World Mental Health Day was Thursday, October 10, and the goal is to increase awareness of mental health issues and more importantly find ways to increase education, reduce stigma and advocate for support of those afflicted.
This past week I spent time with my Thriving Women and shared with them the value of mindfulness and meditation as a practice that has many benefits, such as reduced anxiety, relaxation, better sleep, and more focus. All these attributes keep our mind healthy and contribute to our well-being.
Which brings me to another aspect of maintaining wellness, which is physical activity and its affect on our mental well-being. Often, we think of physical fitness and exercise as ways to keep our body looking toned, reduce fat and lose weight. It is either a lifestyle for us, as a way of maintaining our appearance, or it is a goal-oriented activity to change our appearance (maybe for a special event) which has an end date.
Here are nine great reasons to exercise (for body and mind):
1. Better sleep
2. Better stamina
3. Stress relief
4. More energy
5. Mood elevator
6. Weight reduction
7. Reduced cholesterol
8. Increased cardiovascular fitness
9. Better SEX!
Rarely do we think of it as part of our mental health game plan however there are many ways in which exercise can help keep us stay mentally strong and fit.
Studies have shown that exercise can help treat mild depression just as effectively as medication. Some have shown that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour can help reduce the risk of major depression. Endorphins are released, giving you a lift, new neural pathways are engaged and often the physical activity distracts you from repetitive negative thoughts.
And exercise is a great stress reliever. I often go walking after work and this time walking alone, outdoors in nature, gives me time to decompress before I head home. I feel more relaxed both mentally and physically afterwards.
Also exercise increases dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels, all of which increase your focus and mental acuity, thereby reducing ADHD symptoms. And it is found that exercise increases growth of our brain cells, slowing age-related declines.
Regular workouts increase your self-esteem, because you not only look better by exercising regularly you are investing in yourself, which in turn increases your feelings of self-worth. These feelings of achievement and acknowledging your efforts make you feel good about yourself.
Have you ever heard people (or yourself) say “I am too tired to work out”? Well guess what – working out increases your energy levels. Sometimes the best thing to do when you are tired, is to get moving!
Regular exercise increases your stamina and resilience, so when you are faced with mental and emotional challenges we don’t resort to drugs, alcohol, and food to cope. We are much better able to manage our emotions and reactions, when we keep our bodies fit. Not to mention that the more exercise is part of your lifestyle, the more able you will be to handle physical and mental stress.
Plenty of reasons to start adding some regular exercise into our daily routine, right? If you don’t right now, start slow. Try a youtube video for 15 minutes, take a walk outside while the weather is still good, dance around your kitchen. Whatever it takes, get moving! Your body and mind will thank you.