Why exercise is good for mental health

Black woman smiling while flexing her muscles

Written by Jake Kastleman

 

We all know exercise is good for us. You’ve known it your whole life, right? Maybe you’re someone who already exercises. Maybe you don’t. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between.

For most of us, exercise is something we just don’t get enough of. We try to get to the gym or outside a couple times a week. We commit and recommit to our fitness goals. We tell ourselves, “I’m going to finally follow my fitness plan this week. I’ll start tomorrow.” We write out a plan, we feel optimistic, we are ready to change.

Then it comes time for the workout, and we just can’t bring ourselves to do it.

The reality is, many of us lack the motivation. This is one reason it is great to eat whole fruits and veggies every day. Eating clean, healthy foods fills us with energy and vibrance, filling our body and mind with color so that we in turn are motivated to experience more vibrance and more color.

We eat healthy, which naturally energizes and motivates us to get out and exercise, which naturally motivates us to eat healthy. It’s a beautiful cycle.

Starting that really awesome cycle can be so dang hard though, right? That’s what Ruvi is all about - empowering you to start the cycle; to light the fire; to get what you need to begin living the life and having the health you dream of. If you haven’t yet, go check Ruvi out. While you do, we’ll be here talking about all of the ways that exercise improves your mental health, and why it is so important.

Come on this journey with us.

  

Why exercise makes you happy

In addition to burning calories, when you exercise your body and brain release endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid. These are “happy chemicals” and hormones that cause you to feel fulfilled, at ease, and pumped up.

Because of this and other amazing benefits, exercise can be very helpful for those of us with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

  

Better sleep

Exercising can reduce “sleep onset” for many people. Sleep onset is the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep. Exercise can also reduce daytime sleepiness, which is awesome. It even causes some people not to need sleep medications. Can you imagine that? Just because of getting out and moving. We love that.

One caveat, don’t do intense exercise right before sleep. For some people, this actually causes their sleep to be worse, as exercise releases endorphins which causes the body to be more alert.

So, no Rocky Balboa tire-hammers or stair-climbs up to the capital right before bed, you hear? (We know you’re tempted.

Sleep is central to mental clarity. If you’re sleeping well, you’re more likely to feel stable and your brain chemicals will be more in balance.

If you suffer from sleep loss, check out the article by our friends over at Slumber Yard entitled Diabetes and Sleep. Slumber Yard provides incredible reviews of the best beds on the market, helping you and your family get more excellent sleep!

People exercising outside togther - girl smiling as she stretches

Build relationships

One of the greatest parts about working out is working out with others! Exercising with a workout buddy, sports group, or workout class can be seriously motivating.

When you have others counting on you to be in class, or you’re worried they’ll say “hey, where were you last time?”, it can be motivating to get you to show up. Though, this is hopefully a positive thing, and not fear-based. If it starts out that way though, don’t worry. Eventually, you’ll come to love the exercise and do it for its own reasons, not just because you don’t want others to be disappointed in you. You need to start somewhere!

So how does this help your mental health? We all know that the relationships in our lives are some of the most precious and important things we have, if not the most. Exercising with a group or a buddy can help you feel like part of something bigger than yourself, and it can get you out socializing and out of your comfort zone. The more you expand your social circle and your comfort zone, the more your mental health will likely improve.

 

Increase your motivation to make healthy choices

Exercising is hard work. When you exercise, you are less likely to eat a bunch of junk, as you don’t want to work against yourself or undo any of the awesome work you put in. Afterall, working out hurts!

This is one of the ways exercising can help you make healthier choices.

In addition, when you begin seeing and feeling changes in your body, and you’re loving the results, you want to feed that success. So, you tend to eat healthier.

Physical health and nutrition is very clearly connected to mental health. But, it can be hard to stay motivated to eat healthy. So, exercise is kind of like a life hack to eat healthier, as your motivation naturally increases without you needing to force it. It just happens naturally.

 

Neurogenesis

Exercise promotes the production of new neurons in the brain. So, when you exercise, you are literally growing your brain! Keep exercising and your head may grow to the size of a watermelon!

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t work that way. But hey, it would seem all of those people we called “meat-heads” in the past may have had far more brains than we thought, huh?

When you can increase the plasticity of your brain and promote the growth of neurons, this can help you to solve problems and experience life in new ways. This is just another way to live life in color. 

 

Self-confidence

Exercise can help increase your self-confidence in many ways. The one most of us may think of is that exercise can help with physical appearance. Losing weight or building some muscle can certainly be a positive outcome that may help you mentally and emotionally. But guess what? Despite what some may say, that is not what’s most important!

Exercise builds your self-confidence because you complete goals and feel accomplished. It also makes you feel dang good, so that helps you just feel more confident in general. On top of that, you get to prove to yourself that you can do something hard. As our very own Mo Hendricks puts it:

“I fully believe that if you create your ‘hard’, then when somebody else puts something hard on you, you already know how to handle it. So, if you wake up in the morning and start your day off with something that’s tough, that makes you suffer a little bit, later in the day when someone comes at you with something you can say ‘I’ve already done something harder today, I can handle this’.” - Mo Hendricks

You rock, Mo! To read our full exclusive interview with Mo, click here.

Not all of us need to be an NFL superstar or an Olympic gymnast, but if we are able to do something that’s at our level of hard, and prove to ourselves we can do it, then our confidence can soar. And that could be something as simple as walking a mile or jogging for a few minutes.

 

How do I get motivated to exercise?

Eating your daily fruits and veggies is an excellent way to energize your body and brain, so you can start feeling motivated to do things that rock! 

But let's be real, fresh fruits and veggies are hard for most people. If you want to get 4 servings of whole fruits and veggies in your diet in 30 seconds or less every single day, then DRINK your fruits and veggies with Ruvi

For more tips on getting started exercising, check out our article How to Get Started Exercising Today.




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