Exercise and Mental Health

I don’t know about you, but when I get stressed, overwhelmed, upset, or just a general feeling of being down, the last thing I want to do is exercise. When in reality, the first thing I need to do is get my body moving!

There are many obvious benefits of exercise (ie. weight control, increased energy and confidence, decreased risk of disease, improved sleep, etc). But did you know that exercise, or lack thereof, can have a huge impact on your mood?! Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem (Mayo Clinic).

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling sluggish. Lethargic. Negative and irritable. Getting up in the morning is the hardest part of my day. And guess what hasn’t been part of my routine the last few weeks? You guessed it: exercise. So it’s no surprise that my mood has been absolute crap. Life got hectic, my favourite fitness class stopped running, and other excuses come to mind.

I’ll admit, the first few mornings of getting up early to go to a fitness class are kind of the worst. But, day by day, the early mornings get easier and I actually find myself with more energy throughout the day. I stand taller and walk with purpose. I have a brighter outlook and more positivity. I’m more productive at work and have motivation to do the things I love at the end of the workday.

Getting active can be daunting, there’s no doubt. The beauty of exercise though is that it doesn’t have to mean spending an hour on the elliptical in a stuffy gym (no thanks). It can mean riding your bike to work, getting off the bus a few stops early, going dancing with friends, taking a walk with your fur baby. Literally ANYTHING that gets your body moving and your heart pumping. My biggest piece of advice to anyone who wants to incorporate more exercise into their life is to find a type of exercise that they truly ENJOY. Find a workout buddy who you enjoy spending time with. Find a class that makes you feel like a million bucks. Join a sport that brings out your playful and competitive side. You’ll dread your workouts less, and maybe even (gasp!) enjoy them!

Moral of this story: Don’t be so hard on yourself when you don’t do a high-intensity workout 7 days a week! Every little bit counts, and small changes to your daily routine can have a significant impact on your mental health.

Today’s Reflection: How can I incorporate more movement in to my day to help improve my mood? 

2 thoughts on “Exercise and Mental Health

  1. Great post Sam. So much truth. I just started a Pound class and it’s so much fun…and I don’t get excited about exercise. But this time I feel like it’s different. I can’t wait till class every week.


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