We can’t say it enough: Exercise is vital for your mental health.
We may focus on the many physiological benefits—increased strength, decreased fat, better bone density, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, stronger heart, etc.—but the benefits for your mental wellbeing are just as significant: from the immediate mood boost and stress relief, to the positive reliability of an exercise routine, to the long-lasting psychological welfare that comes from a stronger, healthier body.
And after the year we’ve had, facing the psychological tolls of pandemic stress and isolation, an exercise-based mental health program is exactly what all of us need right now.
A Brain Break
When our mental health starts to slide, one of our first instincts is to try to consciously think ourselves better. But what our conscious brain really needs is a break.
Often times the easiest way to turn our brain off is to put our body to work. The distraction is mentally beneficial, and exercise is even a form of active meditation that serves as an emotional reset button.
The Feel-Good Chemicals
Imagine how you feel immediately following a workout, that combination of relief, satisfaction, and absolute joy.
Of course, completing any task provides you with some mental benefits. But exercise is especially happy-making. And there’s a real, scientific reason for that.
Physical exertion triggers your body to release mood-boosting chemicals, especially endorphins and dopamine. These are like taking a shortcut to your happy place. You don’t have to consciously put yourself in a better headspace or think happy thoughts; post-workout chemicals do all of that for you, automatically.
Exercise-related chemical changes also have long-term effects on the brain. These effects, which include anti-inflammatory properties, not only help with depression; they also decrease your risk for developing dementia and even Alzheimer’s. In fact, exercise is one of the few scientifically verified proactive steps you can take for decreasing risk of these brain conditions.
The Reliable Routine
Regular exercise means improving your body step-by-step. But that routine builds a solid foundation for your mental health, too.
Our brains are wired to appreciate order and predictability. An exercise routine gives us a known activity to look forward to. After a year in which so many things became unpredictable, exercise stands out as a straightforward mechanism for giving order and meaning to our lives.
Power and Control
While all exercise can improve mental health, strength training and functional training bring special benefits to the table.
That’s because a stronger, more balanced and coordinated body affects all aspects of your life—not just your time in the gym.
Physical limitations cause emotional distress. You want to carry your groceries or move your plants around, but your body can’t comply. Soon enough, you simply assume that certain activities are off-limits. Your lifestyle is physically confined, and your brain is walled off from even considering any number of tasks that could bring you joy.
Strength training breaks down those walls.
The Positive, Outside Influence of a Personal Trainer
Unfortunately, with all these benefits that exercise can provide our brains, poor mental health can mean we still don’t want to work out.
That’s where a personal trainer comes in.
An outside authority adds accountability and support to your exercise routine. A personal trainer can also reassure you that you’re doing what’s best for your body as well as your brain. You avoid physical as well as mental setbacks.
And ultimately, a personal trainer provides social interaction and human contact—yet another vital boost to your mental health.