It goes without saying that exercise is a key component for maintaining your body’s health. Exercising keeps you strong and helps you balance important bodily functions, like hormone levels. You may not have thought about the influence that exercise has on your mind/body connection. 

Some people like to believe that their minds and bodies are separate machines, when in fact they work in tandem to create the symphony of your life. You know your body can’t work without your mind, and the same is true of that statement’s inverse. Your mind needs your body to stay healthy. Here are the benefits of exercising for your mental health.

How Exercise Improves Mental Health

Whether you’ve officially been diagnosed with a mood disorder, like depression or anxiety, or you’re just feeling a little down in the dumps, one step you can take to feel better is exercise. Studies have shown that aerobic activities increase serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a hormone that’s responsible for regulating mood, so increased levels mean you’re able to handle life’s mental challenges more effectively. In a study conducted by the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, 119 relatively sedentary people without reported mental health issues saw a collective increase in their positive mood scores after consistently exercising four days a week for three months. 

For those who live with mental health challenges, exercise can make an even greater impact. Since serotonin levels are directly linked to your mood it makes sense that exercise helps curb depression and anxiety. Researchers found that physical activity actually reduces the risk of inherited clinical depression. For those with anxiety disorders, working out keeps your brain focused on the present moment, which curbs anxious thoughts. Exercising is a win/win for your body and mental health. 

Exercising Is A Form Of Self Care

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

One of the best ways to stay on top of your mental health is through self-care. It’s easy to get caught up with work and family, leaving little time for yourself. However, over time continuing that cycle can be detrimental to your mental health. Taking 30 to 60 minutes out of your day to move your body means you’re caring for yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. 

Have you ever been your own body’s critic? Regular exercise can build self-confidence which can lead to more self-acceptance. If you’re taking the time to work out, you’re directing less focus towards negative self-talk and in turn are empowering yourself to focus on self-improvement. Exercise sets you up to feel accomplished at the end of a hard workout, therefore improving your mental state. 

Exercise Syncs Up Your Mind/Body Connection

The more your mind and body have to work together, the stronger your mind/body connection. Don’t just shrug off the importance of the mind/body connection, because it might save your life someday. The more you exercise, the better your central nervous system “[receives] and [synchronizes] movement expressed through the peripheral nervous system.” Exercise boosts your mind/body connection by decreasing your reaction time. 

How does this apply to everyday life? If you’ve been working out and strengthening your mind/body connection, if a car comes out of nowhere while you’re crossing the street, you’re more likely to move out of the way faster, potentially saving your life. Never underestimate the power of a good workout. 

The next time your workout gets tough, remember that you’re not just taking care of your body at that moment, you’re also taking care of your mind. Don’t be down on yourself when it gets hard. The work you’re putting in—even if you’re not lifting your heaviest or running your farthest—is still greatly benefiting your brain.