The physical and health benefits of exercise are pretty well known – improved cardiovascular health, stronger muscles, improved bone density, lower heart rate and decreased blood pressure, to name a few.
But there are so many other benefits that come hand in hand with regular exercise, that are a lot less known about but just as important, if not more so – and they are the emotional benefits.
Emotions play such a huge part in every day life without us necessarily being aware of it and to be able to improve our emotional balance is an amazing attribute of exercise.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but how exactly does exercise improve mood? When we exercise, we produce endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that reduce the perception of pain and improve immunity and help us to relax. They are our body’s natural ‘feel good’ mood boosters that enhance optimistic feelings. When we exercise we release these endorphins creating happier feeling and a more positive state of mind.
Have a think about how you feel when you’re tired – grumpy, short tempered, easily irritated, low patience levels, not particularly happy, yes? So we all agree that a good night’s sleep is important for our emotional happiness!
Did you know that exercise promotes better sleep? A new study has shown that people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, with a 65% improvement in sleep quality because physical activity increases time spent in deep sleep – the most physically restorative sleep phase.
Self-esteem is the value we put on our own worth, abilities and personal value. If you’re feeling low in energy, lacking some self-confidence or not feeling great about your wellbeing, it makes sense that your self-esteem make take a nose dive too.
Exercise can be a great way to improve your self-esteem and self-value. Feeling strong and having a positive attitude about what you can do – and sometimes even just the success of sticking to an exercise plan for a week or two – will give you a greater sense of achievement, more personal value and belief in yourself.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests exercising for 20 to 30 minutes every day, picking an activity you enjoy so you'll stick with it, varying what you do to ward off boredom, and mixing classes, sports and exercise with friends and individual workouts to keep things interesting, keep pounds off and most importantly, keep your self-confidence high.
Anxiety is not just feeling stressed or worried, it is when these feelings don't subside and are ongoing without any particular reason or cause. For some it can be debilitating and for others it can be mild but still not a pleasant experience.
When we feel any amount of stress – mild or extreme – our body releases a hormone known as cortisol. If we think of cortisol as the bad guy, exercise is the hero because when we exercise, our body depletes cortisol levels bringing them down to a normal level and also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brains response to stress.
So next time you’re faced with the choice of a relaxing bath or a 20m minute brisk walk to alleviate the symptoms of stress or anxiety, opt for the walk – you can also follow it up with a relaxing bath!
I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling energetic I feel like I can do anything – I feel more productive, I have a ‘buzz’ about me in everything I’m doing and it takes a lot to bring me down from that happy feeling. But boy, when my energy levels are low, all I want to do is curl up in the corner, not talk to anyone, put my to-do list on and the world on hold!
You might think that using up energy during exercise is a bad thing and will make you less energetic, but in fact the opposite occurs – exercise produces energy and studies have shown that over time, regular exercise can have a positive effect on energy levels and will improve them.