(Contributing Author: Jack)
We all know that regular exercise can do a world of good for the body, but did you know that it can also have a tremendous effect on the mind? It’s true…even a moderate amount of physical exercise on a regular basis can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and sadness and improve your inner peace. So while rest is important for your inner health, so too is getting up and moving your body.
Aerobic exercise can have a stimulating effect but at the same time, it can also help to relax the mind and body. There’s a chemical basis for this, as aerobic exercise reduces stress hormones while at the same time stimulating the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood regulators. This is the process that leads to what is commonly known as a “runner’s high”, the feeling of relaxation and exhilaration experienced by so many athletes. Since stress-related hormones can have tremendous negative effects on both your physical and mental health, the importance of exercising cannot be emphasized enough.
This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours in the gym working up a sweat. You can get the same stress reducing effect from a 30-minute walk or a 30-40 minute session on a good treadmill. It’s the act of moving the body, which gets the blood pumping and allows endorphins to be released. At the same time, the repetition involved in running, walking or using a treadmill can help to have a calming, almost meditative effect, allowing you to feel at peace with yourself.
The positive effects of exercise on the mind go beyond the chemical, however. The more you exercise regularly and begin to lose weight, you’ll find yourself looking better and feeling more energized. This can lead to increased self-confidence as you feel better about yourself, which can help to alleviate sadness. In fact, clinical studies have been done to show the beneficial effects of exercise on individuals suffering from depression.
Of course, aerobics aren’t the only type of exercise you can do to help improve your mental health along with your physical health. Breathing exercises, which help to improve oxygenation to the brain, can have a huge effect in terms of reducing stress. You can do deep breathing exercises on their own or combine them with yoga to help relax the muscles and take stress relief to the next level. Yoga is one of the most common stress relieving exercises as it allows you to balance mind and body and combat sadness, anxiety and emotional distress.
Both meditation and muscle relaxation can also be used to achieve inner peace and improve emotional health. Meditation exercises, where you empty your mind and focus on a neutral object or repeat a single word mantra, can help you to break away from stressful thoughts and situations. Muscle relaxation allows you to release tension by flexing and slowly releasing each group of muscles in succession. Again, this can help to relieve stress and achieve a sense of physical and mental calm.
These are just some of the ways that you can use exercise to improve your mental and emotional health. Getting out into the fresh air and sunlight while you exercise can help, even more, allowing your body to reap the benefits of natural stimulation but you can achieve the same effect in the gym or at home. The important thing is to engage in a regular physical activity, particularly activity that involves repetitive motion so that your body can be improved as your mind is relaxed. You’ll find those feelings of sadness replaced by feelings of achievement and pride as you achieve a whole new level of inner peace.
Jack is a personal trainer with over 20 years in the fitness industry. He is an expert advisor for various fitness-related entities and writes regularly for several health/exercise websites, including treadmilltalk.com.