Starting a simple workout plan, either through a no-equipment workout at home or by adopting a beginner weightlifting routine in the gym seems, to most of us, the best tool to finally get in shape and achieve those body goals we have been pursuing.
Nevertheless, there is an aspect that is less commonly taken into consideration when we decide to start exercising. Oftentimes, we are more focused on the physical benefits we reap from exercising, which may lead us to completely overlook the mental benefits.
The mental benefits of exercising can play a huge role in helping us stay ‘sane’, especially during challenging times. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, now is a better time than ever to really start focusing on exercise and your mental health. It is no wonder we are seeing more people becoming more physically active lately by taking the steps to try a simple workout plan at home.
Getting fit brings us countless physical benefits. According to theU.S National Library of Medicine, exercising regularly ‘contributes to the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic diseases and is associated with a reduced risk of premature death’.
Nevertheless, the question we are now asking is: how does exercise benefit us mentally? And how can we make the most out of it?
The mental benefits of exercising
Being physically active, by practicing functional fitness workouts, for instance, can bring to whoever practices it consistent physical benefits. These can include enhanced endurance, a better sex life, and overall increased energy, as reported by the U.S National Library of Medicine.
However, exercising is not only about losing weight, building muscle, or increasing interest in sex. Its role goes beyond that to building the mental strength you need to stay productive and maintain good performance levels, be it at work, studies, or just your ordinary daily tasks.
People who cannot spend a day or two without going to the gym know exactly what we are talking about. Thus, functional fitness workouts do not only make our lives easier, but they also leave us feeling refreshed throughout the day, and prepares us to face our daily challenges with increased focus, energy, and self-confidence.
Here are some of the mental benefits you will gain when you start exercising:
Better sleep quality: If you struggle to maintain a healthy sleep pattern or get enough shuteye at night, exercising will definitely help you get the rest your body and mind need. Performing your beginner weightlifting routine in the morning or building a simple workout plan to follow every afternoon will make your body more relaxed by the end of the day, thanks to the calming effects exercising has. Additionally, working out will allow you to regulate your natural sleep cycle (also known as the circadian rhythm). One small thing to avoid: working out close to bedtime. Despite its positive impact on your sleep pattern, it might actually make you more alert if done near bedtime. If that is the only free time you have throughout the day, we recommend yoga or light stretching exercises that will loosen your tense muscles and make you more relaxed.
Increased self-confidence: Exercising regularly will put you closer to the body goals you have long dreamed of. As you start noticing more and more changes, your self-image will follow. The perception you had on your self-worth will take a positive turn, and the negative self-talk will vanish. This new self-image you have created for yourself will have a profoundly positive effect on your personal and professional life.
Boosted energy: Exercising activates higher levels of alertness in the brain and body. By doing even a small no equipment workout, your blood flow will be increased in no time. Thus, your cells will be provided with the nutrients and oxygen they need faster. As a result, you will feel more alert and focused, ready to perform any given task!
Increased happiness: It is now confirmed that happiness can be found in the simplest things, like following a simple workout plan! Exercising helps your brain produce endorphins, also known as the ‘happiness neurotransmitters’. Once released, these hormones will reduce any negative emotions and give you a euphoria boost.
Refined interpersonal skills: With your newly found self-confidence, approaching other people at the gym or colleagues in your workplace will be easier than before, as you will find yourself less worried about what they think of you, and more focused on developing your interpersonal relationships. Not only that, but your family and loved ones will also begin to see the difference as well. Since you will no longer be as agitated or stressed out as you were before, they will get to spend more quality time with you.
Enhanced cognitive abilities: The impact of those happiness hormones we mentioned earlier is not only limited to making you feel better but also enhancing your cognitive functions. In other words, the release of endorphins will stimulate the parts of your brain responsible for analyzing and memorizing, which will sharpen your memory and boost your ability to process information.
Most importantly, working out will make your battle against mental illnesses less challenging, as it can have the same effect as antidepressants.
Thanks to its ability to boost neural growth, exercising can ease the mental struggles you might be facing daily. In addition to that, it can also work as a distraction from the problems you might be thinking about endlessly. Consider it an escape from the bad mental space you might be in, so you can start reaping the benefits and transitioning to a healthier mental state.
It is okay to start slow
People’s schedules vary from one person to the next. Therefore, we do not expect you to spend hours of your day at the gym. Rather, dedicating a few minutes each day or two can make a difference. Do not get intimidated by the desire to start big, but instead develop small habits to build upon. This can be a beginner weightlifting routine or a simple workout plan. Whatever it is, stick with it. All of your efforts will surely pay off.