Exercise and Mental Health – The Gold Standard

exercise and mental health

It was his day off, yet he could hardly force a smile while eating breakfast with his girlfriend.

He involuntarily made small talk to avoid involving her with his problems.

What she couldn’t see was a troubled mind, brewing with negative thoughts.

His mind was full of concern, his heart was racing, and quite frankly he was sick of dealing with these emotions.

He felt trapped inside his own head.

Thankfully he had one escape he could always fall back on.

He packed his bag, grabbed his keys, and took off to find his happy place.

As he arrived at his destination, and opened the door, the smell of fresh equipment struck his sinuses, and the sound of weights clanging pierced his eardrums.

An instant relief came over him.  This gym was his sanctuary, a place of peace and healing.

After a brief warm up, he made his way over to the weight rack, and with each step closer, the outside world closed off just a tiny bit more.

Before he knew it, he was halfway through his workout.  The problems he brought with him?

They hadn’t even made it through the front door.

Do you recognize the relationship between exercise and mental health?

If someone was to ask my opinion on what the number one tool for dealing with mood disorders is,  I would tell them without a doubt, it is exercise.

Exercise can, and will, improve all aspects of your life.

You will start to eat healthier, you will take your health more seriously in order to further improve your fitness, and you will experience better sleep.

All three of these are essential factors to improving your mental health from the ground up.

Furthermore, exercise is one of the best natural stress reducers available.  Even 20 minutes of exercise can lower your stress levels dramatically.

Would you believe me if I told you people who exercise are less likely to experience depression?  How about if I told you, exercise could dramatically lower any depression you currently deal with?

 

Exercise and Mental Health

Exercise, whether it is running, lifting weights, hiking, playing sports, etc, releases endorphins in the brain that naturally boost mood.

After having  an awesome workout or run, you might often feel on top of the world.  Have you ever heard of a runners high?

It is a real thing, and can be incredibly therapeutic for those of us who choose to capitalize on it!

For myself, the gym has been therapeutic for years, I found weightlifting in high school and I immediately fell in love.

It has always been a remedy for me when I am feeling anxious or depressed, and often eases symptoms within minutes of starting a workout.

A hard workout always helps me to redirect my focus from negative thoughts to self improvement.

The rush of natural endorphins that soon follows always has me leaving the gym feeling better than before.

After over 8 years, it has never failed me, and continues to be a strategic counter-measure against any mental health issues I may face on a day to day basis.

 

Exercise and Self Esteem

Have you ever been on a beach and seen someone in magnificent shape?

All of a sudden you feel pretty self conscious, and probably hope your partner is looking somewhere else?

Perhaps you even find yourself thinking “I sure wish I looked like that”.

I promise you: Getting in shape will improve your confidence more than anything else.

 

Forgive me for using myself as an example.

In grade 10-high school I weighed a whopping 110 pounds.  Not a word of a lie.

I was the typical skinny-gamer kid.  I hardly ever saw the sunlight, and I definitely didn’t put any time into self improvement of any sorts.

Despite the lack of self-improvement efforts, I was super self conscious, and unhappy with what I brought to the table.

My weight crushed any confidence I had.  In addition, I wanted a girlfriend badly, but I figured no girl would fall for a skinny guy like myself.

In an effort to gain weight, I would stuff myself with fast food on a daily basis.

My metabolism must have been through the roof because even in doing so, maintaining the 110lb mark was a struggle.

One fateful day my Xbox account got hacked and I decided it was time to get a gym pass.

My family was pretty active and the idea of the gym was always an idea.  Thankfully life pulled the trigger, and removed video games, freeing up ridiculous amounts of time.

All of a sudden I had too much spare time to avoid the gym, and I found myself in front of a weight rack.

From day one I was hooked.  That was one of the most life changing days in my life, I finally had a purpose and a passion that was productive.

The first year I gained 30 pounds of lean muscle, and people started to notice quick.

Friends would jokingly make fun of me out of jealousy, girls showed a much greater degree of interest in me, even random people at the gym would approach me and compliment me.

People showed me respect I had never known before.

 

exercise and mental health
(Me Five Years Later)

Ever since, the gym has been my one stop mental health shop

If I’m upset,  I go and hit a punching bag and feel better within minutes, when I am anxious, I go and lift some heavy weights and I feel better immediately.

And on the days I just feel out of it, I go for a hike in nature.

 

For Myself, There Is No Denying The Relationship Between Exercise And Mental Health.

Roughly four months before the writing of this article, I suffered a super bad injury that kept me out of the gym for roughly three months.

In that time I noticed an undeniable increase in my anxiety, and my depression also began to creep back up slowly.

Upon a slow/cautious return to the gym, these symptoms are reduced as quick as they arose.

After being sidelined for so long, I have adopted the mindset of “I get to go to the gym” not “I have to go to the gym”

For true personal development, I recommend adopting the same mindset.

 

Getting Started

If you have never been in the gym before don’t be intimidated, it is critical to remember everyone starts somewhere.

This goes for any type of exercise.

I look at the strongest, the skinniest, and the largest person in the gym with the same respect.

We are all there for one thing…self improvement.

At first you may hate exercising, but don’t be so quick to give up on it.   Exercise becomes enjoyable once you begin to see progress, which can take up to a month.

Remember, nobody can run 10 miles, bench 300 pounds, or squat 4 plates on their first day.  I still can’t do any of those.

I recommend finding a workout partner to hold you accountable day in and day out.  To motivate you on the low days, and someone you can do the same to when you are up for it!

Starting with a workout program is also key.  For someone who doesn’t know much, it is best to follow someone who has been at it for years, rather than throw around weight aimlessly.

There are plenty of programs available to get you started.

I have used body of a spartan for the last few years and have had great success.  It has plenty of info for beginners and those with experience as well.

For a free program, bodybuilding.com will be more than adequate.

 

In Conclusion

As you can likely tell, I have a strong passion for exercise.  I highly recommend anyone living a sedentary lifestyle to make the time to change your life.

With all the passion in the world, I can still only scratch the surface of what exercise can do for YOU.

What are you waiting for?

 

If you found this useful let me know in the comments below!

 

4 Comments

  1. Great article. My most depressed period of my ice is when I was the most inactive. More active = Less anxiety and depression. Always. What does your gym routine look like Alex?

  2. Hey Ray, thanks for visiting the blog. I totally agree. As for my routine, I’ve been following body of a spartan for awhile now, although I only make it to the gym roughly 4 days a week to avoid fatigue. I also keep it short and sweet, hit it hard and go home fast.

  3. I always feel so much better after a workout, it is really the only thing that keeps me up when I am down. I have noticed now over the years though if I push too hard (which I have a hard time not doing!) it always sets me back due to adrenal fatigue so I’m LEARNING to exercise moderately.

    • Hey Caprice, thanks for the input and welcome! I have the same problem with exercise, I would love to go 7 days a week but fatigue sets in pretty hard if I do. Moderation in everything

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