By Jerry Pugh | Contributor
Even a brief movement session can relieve stress and boost mental health, the first step in a ripple of positive effects. In addition to the standard mental health practices many professionals encourage, including proper diet, stress management practices and strong interpersonal connections, exercise can
play a crucial role in promoting mental health and wellness. A brief exercise session, typically 30 minutes to an hour, can yield great benefits. Following a movement schedule that incorporates a workout four to five times each week only compounds the positive impacts.
Endorphins Have a Lasting Impact
The endorphins produced during a standard workout can provide a “feel-good” effect during the workout itself and for hours following it. Endorphins are known to act as painkillers and natural mood elevators, and they can have a longer-lasting impact on sleep quality, immune function and even social bonding — a crucial aspect of mental health. The mood enhancement associated with exercise is a chemical function that can reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress, and this adjustment can help the average person in more easily finding and maintaining a happy balance.
These chemicals can also have a powerful impact on mental clarity, increasing focus and productivity throughout the day. However, exercise offers a horde of benefits beyond just the endorphins it produces.
Many Forms of Exercise Boost Social Connectedness, Self-Image
Endorphins certainly play an important role in mental health, but some aspects of maintaining quality mental health rely less on brain chemicals and more on self-perception and persistent thought patterns. One of the most important perks of consistent exercise is the ability to channel negative feelings into a productive space. Rather than holding stress inside and building tension, exercising
allows you to channel frustrations, stress, anger, disappointment and other negative feelings into a productive activity, meaning you can release them sooner and return to a more neutral mental state.
The ability to stick to a given exercise plan can also boost self-image. By creating an attainable plan, you can fulfill your goals, which in and of themselves have positive impacts, and the feeling of achievement after each workout is completed can be especially fulfilling. This is another aspect of a consistent exercise routine that can create a positive ripple effect. With each successful workout, the sense of accomplishment and confidence in oneself increases, and they are more likely to feel equipped to take on future goals — fitness-related or otherwise.
Connect with Others
A strong support network is proven to decrease the likelihood that a person will develop clinically significant depression and anxiety disorders. When a person belongs to a group, they are far less likely to feel isolated and can more easily find support and reassurance. Attending a fitness facility on a regular basis lends itself to making relationships with other members, but there are also team-based fitness activities and group fitness classes that naturally place you in a group setting among others with at least one shared interest.
Mental health challenges are not always as obvious as physical ones, and this leads many people to neglect caring for their mental and emotional wellness. However, it is just as important as physical wellness, and luckily, a consistent exercise routine can address both aspects.
Mr. Pugh offers these simple exercises that can be done anywhere to help eliminate pent-up stress to help reduce anxiety:
Box breathing: This breathing method has four equal steps for each breath, and helps promote relaxation. Pugh can demonstrate the easiest way to do this with our anchors by walking them through the following…
- Step 1: Breathe in, counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
- Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
- Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
- Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centered.
Rhythmic Exercise: Try to get into a routine of walking or doing some type of exercise a day to clear your head. Whether this means reaching 10,000 steps a day or simply just playing a game of catch with your kids, try to complete one type of movement. The repetitive movements tend to build relaxation as sequences are repeated.
Stretching: Stretching reduces muscle tension and has been shown to increase serotonin levels while reducing stress. Pugh can discuss a few simple stretches that can be done anywhere, useful after a long day…
- “Child’s Pose” – Start by kneeling on the floor, and lowering your chest so it reaches the ground. Make sure your feet are together and your knees create a ‘v’ shape. Breathe deeply and hold.
- “Chest Opener” – Clasp your hands behind your back, and squeeze your upper shoulder blades toward each other behind you. Take a deep breath in and push out through your chest.
- “Happy Baby” – Begin by lying on your back and lifting your knees toward your chest. Grab the bottoms of each foot with your hands and pull your knees toward your chest and underarms while slowly straightening out each knee.
About the Author:
Jerry Pugh is the CEO/Owner of Workout Anytime in Plano, TX. The former paramedic who spent a decade working at Putnam County EMS and subsequently ran his family’s agricultural business, launched Workout Anytime Homestead in 2017. His passion for health, fitness and bettering lives has helped him become the largest Workout Anytime franchisee.
Editor’s Note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.