How Exercise Improves Mental Health

The benefits of exercise have long been established, and there are lots of good reasons to live an active lifestyle including, higher levels of endurance, improved cardiovascular health, muscle tone and strength, lower blood pressure, and weight management.

But, if you were looking for even more motivation to workout, the benefits experienced from exercise don’t stop at feeling and looking more fit and healthy. While it is common knowledge that exercise improves your levels of fitness, did you know exercise can also improve your mental health?

Regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects, according to the Anxiety of Depression Association of America.

The best first step to incorporating routine physical activity into your lifestyle is to first understand your goals, and the best way for you to reach them. Build a workout plan that supports your fitness goals and helps you get results. Ultimately, the goal of your workout plan is to help you establish consistent, healthy habits.  

But, before you can create a workout plan to maximize your results, you need to understand the different types of exercise and the benefits of combining cardio and strength in your routine:

  • Aerobic Exercise: Also known as cardio, is any sustained exercises, such as running, rowing, swimming, or cycling, that stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs, and improves the body's delivery of oxygen throughout your body.

  • Strength Exercise: Physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance and muscular contraction to build the strength and size of skeletal muscles. 

Incorporating both cardio and strength activities is an excellent way to get effective, efficient workouts to to keep both your body and brain fit. Read our tips below to learn how you can start experiencing mental health benefits from moving your muscles: 

Mood Enhancement Effect of Exercise

During periods of physical activity, your body releases “feel-good” chemicals known as endorphins. Endorphins are often referred to as the body’s natural painkillers, and they diminish pain while triggering positive feelings, according to Every Health.

How Exercise Can Help You Get More Sleep

People who exercise regularly report they sleep better than non-exercisers according to a National Sleep Foundation poll. 

“Research has shown exercise can help to improve not only the quantity of sleep but also the quality: studies show daytime physical activity may stimulate longer periods of slow-wave sleep, the deepest and most restorative stages of sleep,” according to Psychology Today. 

Why is it important to know daytime activity can help bring on sleepiness at night AND improve  quality of sleep? Because sleep is an important component to good mental health.

Lack of sleep can lead to bad moods, low energy or a reduced ability to perform tasks. But, even more serious, can lead to sleep deprivation. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to depression, weight gain, decreased immune function, and numerous other health risks. Sleep is necessary to feel alert, be productive, creative - and for your body to function at its optimal level. 

“Sleep deprivation, or a lack of quality sleep, has a significant impact on your brain health and your overall health and wellness. There are good reasons you may want to develop good sleep habits and strive to achieve quality sleep every night,” according to the article ‘What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Brain.’ 

How Exercise Can Reduce Stress

Regular physical activity can help you lower or manage your stress or anxiety. Exercise is an excellent cost-effective way to address stressful events in your life and to positively impact your mental health.

 Everyone experiences stress in their life, but long-term stress can take its toll on your health. There are many different ways stress can negatively impact your health including, being more likely to get sick, having a negative effect on your ability to sleep (see above), or heart disease.

Exercise helps to relieve stress by pumping up the endorphins in your body, shifting your focus to the activity you are participating in, or helping you let go of what is bothering you.

Social Support and Mental Health

Feeling a sense of belonging or community can be a great mental health boost. Additionally, positive social support can you navigate stress (see above) and keep you committed to your fitness goals. Additionally, the feeling of social inclusion can help improve your self esteem.

One way to incorporate exercise with social interaction is to try out various group exercise classes, groups, or clubs. Group training is a great way to enjoy working out, meet people with a similar lifestyle or goals, stay motivated and accountable - all while improving your physical and mental health.

What Type of Exercise is Best for Mental Health Benefits?

Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to help improve mental state, according to an article by the Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc. In addition, strength training is also recognized for its association with mental well-being. 

There are numerous ways to incorporate physical activity into your routine, including:

  • Running:
    Does your home gym have a treadmill? Hop on and start breaking a sweat. Treadmills are always evolving to be more technologically advanced, and many allow you to customize your workout experience.

    For example, test drive the TRUE PS800 home treadmill. The all-new touchscreen allows up to six users to create custom profiles. The app tracking technology monitors workout data and results, which can be via bluetooth connectivity.

  • Low Impact Workout:
    Love running but not the impact?

    Get started on the Octane Zero Runner, a  re-invented treadmill that can be used by anyone who has a desire to run safely or needs to return to a high level of fitness while recovering from injury. Octane designed the Zero Runner to mimic users’ natural running stride, which helps to avoid strains on knees, hips or ligaments.

    Prefer cardio that provides a total body workout? The Cybex Arc Trainer provides a total body workout with various inclines and resistance, while the patented Arc pattern of motion reduces joint pain and strain on knees, hips and back.

  • Multifunctional Home Gym Equipment:
    Equipment that pulls double duty more your style? Try the Hoist Mi5 Functional Trainer. The Mi5 is a revolutionary, no-compromise free weight station, functional trainer and great home fitness equipment solution all in one.

There is lots of evidence supporting the mental health benefits of exercise. Additionally, mental and physical health tend to go hand-in-hand. Adding physical activity to your daily routine is an excellent way to keep physically fit and mentally sharp.

Need help deciding on the right home fitness equipment solution for your home gym? Connect with an equipment expert today or visit your local Gym Source store. We can match you with the right fitness equipment to help you reach your goals.

Resources: Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
Everyday Health:What are Endorphins?
National Sleep Foundation: 2013 Sleep in America poll
Psychology Today: Better Sleep Found by Exercising on a Regular Basis
Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.: Exercise for Mental Health

Share this story: