The mood-boosting benefits of regular exercise are often overshadowed by the physical gains. Most people work out to get in shape. To lose weight, build muscle or improve their athletic performance.
But when motivation wavers, it’s the mental rewards of regular exercise that encourage us to get back on the mat. Even the smallest improvements in our training patterns increase our sensitivity to dopamine receptors. So each workout becomes more of an accomplishment. A way to release stress and flood ourselves with feel good hormones.
In the lead up to Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to highlight the many ways in which exercise — of any kind — can improve mental wellbeing. And why it can be a constant source of motivation for everyone.
“Exercise is associated with a lower mental health burden across the globe, irrespective of age, race, gender, household income and education level.” — Dr Adam Chekroud, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University.
1. MANAGE STRESS
In The Real Happy Pill, Dr. Anders Hansen describes exercise as one of the most effective ways to alleviate stress and anxiety, and improve mood levels.
“Modern neuroscience has shown that maybe the most important thing we can do for our brain — and therefore ourselves — is to be physically active.” — Anders Hansen
That doesn’t mean you have to go cardio crazy. A HIIT class is an excellent outlet for stress (especially if Jamie Ray’s got a say in it). But any dynamic movement will help you produce endorphins and enkephalins. And everything seems much more manageable once you’re fuelled with those coveted ‘happy hormones.’
Over the past few years, evidence has mounted suggesting Yoga is a ‘low risk, high yield’ approach to improving overall health. By lowering the heart rate and blood pressure as well as improving respiration, Yoga completely changes the way we respond to stress.
Our solution: Whatever form of exercise you choose, make it regular. Work out 3+ times a week (easy to fit in with 25 minute classes) to experience long-term positive changes. And breathe deep.
2. TREAT DEPRESSION
Many GPs now prescribe exercise as a treatment for depression, on its own or alongside other therapies. It can help manage symptoms but, more importantly, it can prevent them.
Often described as a ‘wonder drug,’ exercise improves blood supply and neuron signalling, growth and connections. It therefore has a direct and immediate impact on the brain.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300 million people suffer from depression, globally. We believe exercise has the power to significantly reduce that number (with zero side effects).
Our solution: Researchers suggest as little as one hour a week of dynamic exercise can make the difference. Of course, the more you work out, the fitter you’ll be, but the mental benefits yield pretty quickly. Gamifying workouts has also been proven to increase both motivation and mental wellbeing. So naturally, we’re working on this. Watch this space.
3. PROTECT YOUR MEMORY
The good news is, the brain fog that often comes with age can be prevented. The University of British Columbia recently conducted a study which proves aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus (a part of the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning).
That means cardio training protects you from developing dementia, as well as depression, anxiety and stress.
Our solution: 120 minutes of high-intensity training a week. That’s just two Fiit sessions every 7 days.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty. Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” — Buddha
Now more than ever, we need to make mental health a priority. And in our experience, a strong mind leads to a healthy body. Make a small change today and you’ll soon feel the benefits.
Download Fiit and take yoga, pilates, HIIT, weight training and breathwork classes — for free.