As we approach what I like to refer to as the second chapter of 2024 (i.e., the month of February), many of us who began the year with the goal of becoming the healthiest version of ourselves may have encountered setbacks or paused along the journey. However, with the new month comes an opportunity to evaluate and reflect on the benefits of these goals.
Today, I want to delve into the benefits of exercise. While the topic isn’t new to most of us, many may not fully appreciate the profound impact it can have on mental health and how to begin incorporating it into our lives.
Research indicates that regular exercise can significantly reduce symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Beyond alleviating depressive symptoms, studies have demonstrated that maintaining an exercise routine can aid in preventing relapses. Exercise is effective because it releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that help relieve pain, reduce stress, enhance mood, and improve overall well-being. In essence, these chemicals make you feel good. A moderately intense pace, such as brisk walking or engaging in aerobic activities, has been shown to be particularly effective in releasing endorphins.
Similarly, the endorphins released during exercise can also be beneficial for individuals with anxiety. Exercise can incorporate a mindfulness component, allowing individuals to focus on their bodies and sensations during physical activity. Consequently, this can serve as a powerful tool to interrupt the recurring thoughts associated with anxiety.
Exercise can also be helpful for those experiencing symptoms associated with ADHD. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain's production of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels, all of which directly affect focus and attention.
Despite the myriad benefits of exercise, finding motivation may be challenging, especially for those struggling with mental health concerns. Here are some important points to keep in mind:
Start small: Setting achievable goals is crucial. Grandiose goals can evoke feelings of defeat, which can be counterproductive. Focus on gradual progress and build from there.
Engage in activities you enjoy: Exercise doesn’t have to be confined to the gym. Any activity that involves movement counts. Whether it's gardening, walking with a friend to a coffee shop, dancing, or playing with your pet, the options are endless. Find joy in exploring different activities.
Make exercise a social activity: Partnering up with a loved one can make exercise more enjoyable and serve as an accountability mechanism, enhancing consistency compared to exercising alone.
Remember, regular physical activity is an investment in your well-being and self-worth. Wishing you all the best on your journey toward becoming the healthiest and best version of yourself.