Do you exercise or have the desire to exercise because you want to flatten that mid-section? Or, do you want to have a tone or muscular physique? Or, maybe you want to prevent heart disease and diabetes? These reasons for exercise are fantastic and thumbs up to you for wanting to improve your body.
While exercise is wonderful to improve our physical health, it can also improve our emotional health.
Have you ever thought to exercise to enhance your mood?
Exercise, or the planned, structured and repetitive physical activity not only improves physical health but also enhances emotional well-being.
And, the emotional benefits after you are done with your sweaty workout are instant, compared to the physical results that unfortunately take months to appreciate.
One mind-blowing benefit of exercise is reduced stress. Exercise increases the feel-good, soothing brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine which helps decrease anxiety as well as depression.
Exercise may be a way of toughening up the brain and therefore, stress has less of an impact. Research also suggests that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants!
Another mind-blowing benefit of exercise is the euphoric feeling you get from performing at high-intensity intervals.
Exercise can act like a drug and become addicting. The term "runner's high" exists because of the "feel good" hormones (endorphins) that get released post workout. In fact, according to one study "feel good" chemicals called cannabinoids are triggered after exercise and are similar to the substances that provide a high from marijuana.
Exercise provides a sense of achievement. According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, exercise may help someone who is depressed by providing a sense of accomplishment because he or she is taking part in meaningful activity.
Studies have also found the natural energy boost you feel after exercise can result when engaging in as little as 20 minutes of low-to-moderate aerobic exercise, three days per week.
Trust me, the last thing I want to do when I am feeling tired is to get up and go to the gym. My initial thought is to grab a cup of java when I am tired. However, I will remain tired if I remain sedentary.
Many people skip the workout when they feel bad, but that is the exact time exercise will have the greatest payoff. The best way to get your energy back is to literally get moving.
We have known exercise to be positive for our physical and mental health for years yet only 26% of adults in the U.S. engage in vigorous physical activity at least three times per week, and 50% of individuals starting an exercise program drop out within the first six months. Why?
There are many possible barriers and causes of individuals to drop out of exercise programs which may include the following: lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of confidence, poor self image, unrealistic weight loss goals, not enough social support, poor self perception, unattainable time frames to achieve weight loss goals, self doubt, negative self-talk, too weak, poor health, worrying how others perceive their exercise, too tired, lack of energy, no exercise partner, fear of falling, self conscious about appearance, bad weather, lack of fitness facilities, etc.
As a result, it is time to...
Hack Your Brain's Hard-wiring
Our bodies and brains have evolved since the Caveman Era. We have evolved from exercise (running from the big tiger to increase the odds of seeing the next meal) to conserving energy and resisting fat loss. Today, our brains defend our bodies against moving too much.
So, what is the solution? We need to retrain the brain to perceive exercise as being essential to our survival again. Exercise needs to be desirable and stimulating as if you are running for your life.
Overcoming barriers to exercise adherence can be challenging but possible and attainable nonetheless.
The following tips may be helpful for individuals who want to start exercising as well as those who want to continue their exercise program:
- Change your perception. Prioritize what is important in your life and schedule exercise as part of your day.
- If you start having negative feelings about exercise say the word "STOP!" in your mind and change your negative thoughts to positive ones such as "Focus!" "I can do this!" "It's time to go!"
- Change up your exercise routines to avoid boredom.
- Turn up the volume on your headphones while listening to that awesome beat. Music tends to improve your mood during exercise.
- Start slow and build up your endurance. Doing too much too soon is not safe for you physically and effects you mentally as well.
- Gradually build confidence by focusing on increasing the frequency, intensity, or duration of your exercises and track your progress.
- Focus on the progress of your exercise rather than the outcomes of exercise (beach body with 6-pack abs).
- Grab an exercise partner. People who workout together exercise longer and more intense than those that exercise solo.
- Use imagery. The human brain still has a hard time distinguishing between real and imagined threats. Use this to your advantage! Push yourself into more intense workouts as if you are running, swimming, rowing, or weight-lifting for your life. By doing so, your brain will release reward chemicals.
These tips and tricks can be used for motivation to exercise. It is also important to get the OK from a medical doctor prior to starting any exercise program.
In conclusion, moving + sweating = feeling good (naturally)
It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor. – Marcus Tullius Cicero