Numerous studies have shown that regular workouts can help to relieve anxiety and boost mood. It is now irrefutable that a definitive relationship exists between fitness and mental health. By providing a direct outlet for channeling your emotions, exercise helps to deflect external stresses. It provides an escape from the chores of daily living and can help to free your mind from life’s troubles.
Moreover, not only does exercise reduce stress, but it also can actually enhance your mental state. During a workout, your brain secretes chemical enzymes called endorphins. These are “feel-good” enzymes that tend to uplift the spirit and produce a natural high. Hence, it is common for a person to experience euphoria after completing a training session, feeling an overall sense of happiness and well being.
In addition, exercise has been shown to improve sleeping patterns, increasing sleep duration and decreasing rapid eye movement (indicating a deeper form of sleep). Stress and anxiety can often cause sleep-oriented disorders, bringing about feelings of irritability and fatigue. This creates a vicious cycle where stress is heightened even further, sometimes leading to clinical depression. Exercise counteracts this process, signaling the body to rest so that recuperation can take place. It has been well documented that those involved in a fitness routine tend to fall asleep more quickly and have a more restful sleep than sedentary individuals.
Fortunately, virtually any physical activity can be utilized to reduce stress. In general, the more strenuous the activity, the greater its overall impact on mental health. Positive effects are only realized, however, when exercise is performed on a regular, consistent basis. As a rule, a minimum of two or three sessions per week is necessary in order to obtain results. Thereafter, you’ll notice benefits in a very short period of time.
Aerobic exercise is perhaps the best way to achieve stress relief. While weight training is certainly an excellent means of diverting mental tensions, research suggests that aerobics provide the greatest benefits in this area. It is theorized that this is due to the uninterrupted, endurance-oriented nature of these activities. Consequently, for optimal results, it is recommended that each session last at least thirty-minutes in length, keeping your heart-rate elevated throughout the workout.
In order to promote adherence, you should endeavor to utilize activities that you enjoy. For instance, many people find aerobic classes to be an attractive fitness alternative. The group-oriented environment of these activities can provide a communal source of motivation, as well as helping to making exercise fun. Other people prefer using the stationary bike, treadmill, stairmaster or even a roller-blading session for their workout. Find out what works for you.
You don’t, however, need to work out intensely in order to enjoy these benefits. Stress reduction can be achieved even with moderate-intensity activities. If you just cannot fathom the thought of performing vigorous, physical exercise, consider utilizing more leisurely activities such as walking, tai chi or gardening. Regardless of your eventual choice, you should endeavor to remain active during the activity, keeping a steady pace to your routine. This will force your mind to stay focused on the task at hand, preventing the temptation to dwell on negative thoughts.
Thus, for overall mental health and wellness, exercise should become a regular part of your weekly agenda. There is ample evidence that it will help to set a positive frame of mind, thereby improving quality of life. In addition, there are a plethora of side-benefits to fitness including enhanced appearance, increased energy, and improved cardiovascular fitness. Ultimately, you’ll find that once you start a consistent program of exercise, there will be fewer reasons for you to be stressed out!