It’s a well-established fact that exercise can have a profound effect on your physical health. It helps to improve muscle tone, build stamina, encourage good cardiovascular health and strengthen bones, all of which adds up to better overall health. But less emphasis is put on the emotional benefits of a regular exercise routine, yet they are just as real and can be just as profound. Exercising, whether outdoors or inside on an exercise bike or other pieces of equipment, can leave you feeling better about yourself, more energized and less stressed and that can go a long way toward improving your life.
And the best thing about these emotional benefits is that you don’t have to put in endless, grueling hours in the gym to get them. A pleasant walk, a fast-paced Zumba session, some relaxing yoga or even just 30 or 40 minutes a day working out in your home gym may be all you need to make a significant change in your life. Regular exercise can not only help to relieve stress, it can actually decrease anxiety, help you get better sleep and even boost your self-confidence.
It’s a scientific fact that exercise helps to reduce the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body. The result is a more relaxed, happier outlook. You can literally sweat off all that pent-up stress and clear your mind, leaving you calmer and more clear-headed so that you can take on any challenge that comes your way. And if you get in that exercise before heading to work or beginning your day, you’ll be better prepared to face whatever you’ve got to do so that you can be more productive.
Escaping the effects of stress is one of the most important benefits of exercise, as stress is proven to take a toll both physically and mentally. Stress can cause everything from tension headaches to heart attack symptoms to feelings of acute anxiety. In order to be healthy emotionally it is crucial that you find a way to relieve the stress in your life and sometimes working up a sweat is the best way to do just that. Not only does it help you physically and allow you to get your mind off your problems, if you choose to exercise outdoors it can help you to connect with the world and put things in perspective as you get a better idea of just how insignificant your problems are in the grand scheme of things.
At the same time, that exercise is getting rid of that stress, it can also cause your body to release neurotransmitters called endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and produce a sense of euphoria. This can help to lessen the effects of chronic illness like arthritis, which often leave you feeling depressed from fighting constant pain. It will also leave you with a natural “buzz” that will have you feeling positive and upbeat for hours after your workout. And how can you not be healthy emotionally when you’re smiling and feeling great?
Along with that natural high, as exercising regularly allows you to shed pounds you’ll begin to feel better about yourself and find your self confidence soaring. That’s a big boost to your emotional health right there, as one of the biggest factors in many cases of depression and anxiety is a lack of self-esteem. People who feel good about themselves are better prepared to take on difficult, challenging experiences and not back down. Looking in that mirror and being proud of what you see is the first big step in being emotionally healthy. And exercise will not only help you feel better about yourself physically, it can give you the satisfaction of having done something to improve yourself, which is a great boost emotionally.
Of course, it’s not as simple as just starting to move, there are some specific things you can do to get the most out of your workout, both physically and emotionally. Again, it doesn’t have to mean spending hours in the gym. In fact, in order to get the most out of your exercise routine you should do something that you actually enjoy. Take a walk, go swimming, take yoga classes, whatever catches your fancy. The more you enjoy it, the more you’ll be motivated to keep at it and the more benefit you’ll derive on every level.
You may also want to consider finding an exercise buddy. One of the most important emotional benefits of exercise is the ability to get outside yourself and connect with others. When you exercise with a friend or family member, again it can help to make the process easier so it seems like less of a chore and it can help to give you a reason to stick with it. If you need extra motivation, you can make it into a regular event, even writing it into your daily schedule like an appointment, so you’ll be more apt to keep it.
Of course, getting outside and breathing in the fresh air while you exercise can be an added benefit, but it’s not entirely necessary. The important point is getting your body moving, getting those endorphins flowing and feeling better about yourself. You can do that outside, at the gym or even at home; as long as you make it a regular part of your routine, you’ll be able to feel a real difference in your life both physically and emotionally.