For adults, it becomes easy to skip exercise and neglect the strength, range of motion and fitness levels of the body. As we become busier with responsibilities and find it increasingly difficult to stick to an exercise plan, it can become easier to gain weight than to lose or maintain it.
Physical exercise has the ability to improve all of these areas – it can help control weight and improve flexibility, strength and fitness levels. Plus, regular physical activity is capable of reducing pain in the body and cutting the risk of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Yet, the benefits of being active extend far beyond the physical body and appearance. Moving your body also greatly affects your mental health and level of happiness.
Exercise Improves Mental Health
Physical exercise is capable of improving your entire being – body and mind. It has a positive effect on mental health, mood and overcoming negative thoughts. Physical activity provides a beneficial option for people who do not participate in psychological therapies for various reasons or as a complement to traditional therapies.
In particular, exercising has been shown time and again to help the common mental disorders like anxiety and depression. Jasper Smits of Southern Methodist University and Michael Otto of Boston University analyzed numerous studies and reviews of the effects of fitness on mental health. The consistent results were that exercise reduced stress, anger, and symptoms of depression and anxiety in study participants. Smits said, "Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors. For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing."
Other exercise-related study results have been positive for overcoming negative thoughts. As an example, an Alliant International University study found that participants reduced their focus on negative thoughts and feelings after engaging in Bikram hot yoga classes.
Exercise Improves Happiness
Within its scope of promoting mental health, fitness is associated with boosts in mood and states of happiness. In this way, it can provide more overall well-being to your life.
In their analysis, Smits and Otto supported the idea that moving your body relates to mood, noting that exercise provides fast and noticeable results for enhancing mood. This realization has the bonus of counteracting a bad mood as a hurdle that prevents exercise – instead, physical activity can be the solution to a bad mood. Also, a study in Mental Health and Physical Activity found that exercise was better than sleep at improving busy mothers’ moods.
As for the pursuit of happiness, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that regular physical activity was a marker that boosted long-term happiness. The research also found the opposite to be true – not regularly exercising is associated with more unhappiness.
With the many benefits of physical activity to the body and mind, it’s ideal to see physical self care as a top priority when your goals include having a healthy life and following the pursuit of happiness. Two major steps to incorporating regular physical activity into your lifestyle include finding types of exercise you enjoy and scheduling time for it into your routine. Also, think about using resources and professionals to guide you in your journey. Above all, commit to making physical exercise an essential component of your health and wellness regimen.