It would be counter intuitive to talk about the benefits of exercise to your physical health. We all understand that Do More Exercise = Body Feel Better (even if your legs still ache 2 days later) but what is being understood and expressed more and more is the positive effects regular exercise can have on your mental health.
No pain, no gain
It may be worth noting that your brain isn’t necessarily your friend when it comes to working out. Often your mind will consciously pick anything else over exercise. “Shall I go for that run? Umm perhaps not, that new series on Netflix just came out!” “Shall I wake up early and go to the gym? No way, this bed is far too comfy.” Comfort will naturally always beat exertion if you let it but by getting over that wall (sometimes knocking the wall down completely) that small win will release endorphins (happy chemicals) into the brain making you instantly feel better with that YOU GOT THIS feeling.
You’ll lose weight
As mentioned above, this is the most obvious and frankly well-known benefits of exercise. It affects your body, helping you lose or maintain or gain weight in muscle mass depending on your personal goals. If you like the way you look, you’ll feel much better mentally. Being happy with your appearance on the outside can cause a knock-on effect which can lead regular exercise to boost your self-esteem.
It’s a great coping mechanism
Many people learn to cope with life’s challenges by drinking alcohol, watching TV, eating excessively, or avoiding situations altogether. These strategies are quick fixes and are ineffective in the long term and if not done in moderation, can often make the problem worse. Using the benefits of exercise to manage anxiety, depression, and other difficulties is a healthy coping strategy.
You’ll sleep better
Like a lot of people, you may find all of the day’s thoughts rushing into your brain at night, making it difficult to sleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. Lack of sleep has been linked to all sorts of physical and mental illness, for example there is a link between less than 4 hours sleep a night and elderly Alzheimer’s. Getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night will leave you well rested and in a better mood to tackle your everyday tasks.
Your mood will improve
You don’t need to be a saint and a glass of wine in the evenings is ok, you’re human! Physical exercise, however, can do much more for your mood. You don’t have to do an Olympic Weightlifting session to reap the benefits. Studies have shown that physical activity of any kind will stimulate several chemicals in your brain that allow you to feel more at ease. A lot of people call this process “Clearing the haze” and once you feel the benefits, you’ll understand.
Feel more energised
If you’re often tired at 3pm and you’re reaching for the coffee machine at this point, then there is a better way. Regular exercise can strengthen your muscles and your endurance. Exercise sends oxygen and nutrients to your body parts and allows your cardio system to work efficiently. When your heart and lungs are working better, you’ll have more energy during the day.
Negative Thoughts? Not Anymore
Exercise can get you out and about and really take your mind off the constant flood of thoughts in your mind. Whenever you have unscheduled time, your thoughts have more potential to become negative. Using that time for physical activity can help redirect your thinking in a more positive and mindful direction.
Real results and support
The benefits of exercise can be a real god send and help with all the above and can really help take positive steps towards clarity when times seem hard. If you are going through a tough time, then physical activity is no replacement for professional help. If you’re feeling like you may need to speak to someone please seek some free advice from the below NHS approved Mental Health Helplines:
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm)
eXPD8 supporting our people
At eXPD8, we take mental health seriously. We even have Mental Health First Aiders on-site who are always available to help.
Here is a useful guide about improving mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information on how we manage mental health in the workplace, check out this article.