Exercise has many important physical benefits, but it also has significant mental advantages. Research shows that working out regularly can help boost your mood and relieve tension. Do you need to reduce your levels of stress? Here are four ways that exercise can help.
1. Release “feel good” endorphins
When you engage in physical activity, your body increases its production of endorphins, chemicals that send positive, blissful signals to your brain. Endorphins also act as natural analgesics that reduce feelings of pain. If you’ve ever felt energized and euphoric after a good workout, it’s likely because of the release of endorphins in your body.
Researchers recently tracked two groups of physically inactive office workers from a large university in England. The first group committed to begin an exercise regimen of walking 30 minutes three times a week during their lunch breaks. The other group agreed to wait ten weeks before starting physical activity.
According to this study, originally published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, the walking group reported a huge improvement in their moods. They were “considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope” than the non-walking individuals. Just 30 minutes of physical activity boosted their moods.
2. Encourage “muscle” meditation
Many people have found that when they concentrate on repetitive muscle movements during exercise, they can clear their mind of the daily stresses of life. According to research, the best mental health improvements come from rhythmic, low to moderate intensity aerobic activities that use large muscle groups.
Examples of these types of exercises include jogging, swimming, cycling and walking. The sessions should take place a minimum of three times per week and last for 15 to 30 minutes.
In addition to moderate exercise movements, the muscle stretching that you do before and after a workout can help relax both your body and mind, and can serve to ease tension and anxiety.
3. Increase social interaction
It is well established that positive social interactions are important for good mental health, and physical exercise can help increase the number of your positive experiences with other people. Consider participating in a class at a local gym, or joining a fitness group at work. You could also partner with a workout buddy to help encourage you while you exercise.
If you prefer to work out alone, a simple wave or smile to another jogger or gym member can go a long way to enhancing positive feelings.
4. Improve self-confidence
When you experience many of the physical benefits of exercises—including losing weight, becoming more toned, and increasing endurance, you also get the emotional benefits of having increased self-assurance and a sense of control, which can lower feelings of anxiety and stress. When you have earned a better physical body, it can translate into mental satisfaction.
Exercise can help your body feel at ease and boost your mood. By taking the first steps to a healthier, more active lifestyle today, you can help reduce the affects of stress and tension.