Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Many of us have come around to that fact -- especially in the last few years.
But did you know that by working on our physical health, those physical benefits can circle back and improve our mental health? And even beyond that, each benefit seems to be connected to the other, in a wonderful cycle of good vibes.
The point is, exercise is crucial for our mental health. It’s all connected! So here, we’re going over a few of the main ways that exercise affects mental health for the better.
Exercise Boosts Your Mood
First of all, exercise stimulates endorphins, your “feel good” hormone. These naturally occurring brain chemicals quite literally enhance your overall sense of well-being, and exercise makes your body release more of them.
Not to mention, our mood can often dip due to external factors. So, exercise provides a healthy way to take your mind off of your troubles for a while. In fact, just try to do some worrying during a tough kickboxing session. Chances are, your mind will naturally forget about your problems.
So, if by the end of every workout you tend to feel in a better mood than when you started, those are two good reasons why.
Exercise Reduces Stress
Exercise as stress relief is another major benefit of working out for our mental health.
Let’s face it -- stress is somewhat inescapable. Between work, kids, and the state of the world, we’re always in a state of change and often a state of uncertainty, which is stressful!
So, instead of trying to control something that’s uncontrollable, exercise gives you a way to cope with stress in a healthy way. Throwing a punch can do wonders...
And in the same way that exercise improves your mood, you’ll notice your stress starts to melt away after a workout session as your muscles release some of that built-up tension and start to relax.
Exercise Improves Sleep
You can’t improve your mental health if you don’t improve your sleep. Quality sleep is a huge factor in our lives, affecting everything from symptoms of anxiety and depression to our stress levels to our appetite.
Exercise improves sleep because you’re releasing excess energy that might be keeping you awake at night, especially if you’re sedentary most of the day. And by using exercise to help regulate your sleeping patterns, you’ll get the added benefit of more energy when you’re awake.
After all, sometimes the best thing you can do for your mental health is to get a good night’s rest.
Exercise Keeps You Connected
Last but not least, exercise keeps you connected to a community of like-minded individuals like the one you’ll find within the OOMPH app.
Mental health issues tend to creep in when we feel isolated and disconnected. We need other human beings to help us feel grounded, and this connection can boost our self-esteem and confidence -- both incredible for mental health.
A Note About Nasal Breathing
Ok, so this may seem like it’s coming from way out of left field, but we wanted to mention nasal breathing and how doing so throughout the day and during your workout routines can improve your mental health.
Think about it. What happens when you take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the nose or mouth? Well, your body starts to relax, and your blood pressure starts to regulate. You’ll probably feel calmer and more grounded too.
What is happening specifically when you inhale through your nostrils?
1. You are able to filter the air you breathe in a way you can’t when breathing through your mouth.
2. You are giving your body more nitric oxide, a gas produced by your nasal sinuses.
Nitric oxide widens your blood vessels allowing more oxygen to circulate throughout your body. As you tap into more nasal breathing, you’re activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which is your “rest and digest” mode.
So, all of this ties into breathing exercises and meditation practices that have been shown to improve your mental health. Plus, workouts like yoga and even kickboxing that integrate breathing with movement can have an instant calming effect.
At the very least, taking a break throughout your day to do some nasal breathing exercises is another way to work through any mental health issues you may be facing. So, we thought it was worth mentioning.
How do you use exercise to manage your mental health?