The Benefits of Exercise for Your Health
Warning: While we will not talk about exercising to lose weight, exercise in and of itself can still be a triggering topic because of this connection. So if this topic may be triggering or upsetting for you, consider that carefully before reading.
We hear it all the time, and many may be tired of it: “Exercise is good for you! You should do it more!” And although this may be annoying and repetitive, it’s actually true. Exercise has a variety of benefits for both your physical and mental health.
Today, we’re going to talk about many of these benefits. However, one thing we will not talk about is exercising to lose weight, because that shouldn’t be our main concern. Rather, we’ll look at all the other ways exercise can help you, and how easy it can really be to do it. So without further ado, let’s get into it!
The mental benefits
Of course, we’re going to start by talking about mental health, because that’s what we care about most. Some of these benefits may seem to overlap with being physical benefits, and that’s for a reason: physical and mental health are inextricably tied together, so helping one usually helps the other.
Exercising for mental health can help you improve your overall health and wellbeing, as well as manage symptoms of various mental issues.
Aiding depression might be one of the biggest benefits of exercise. Exercise releases endorphins, which help make your brain feel happier. It can also have long-term effects on shaping the brain, which combats the effects of depression and can even help lower the risk of it.
Some experts even believe that exercise, when done right, can be an effective replacement for antidepressant medications. Whether you do it with meds or without, there’s no denying that exercise can work wonders for depression.
Anxiety and stress
Exercise can also help release tension and stress, as well as boosting your overall feeling of wellbeing. Not only does this release stress, but the lowered stress can also help ease anxiety.
Additionally, exercise is a great grounding activity, further helping anxiety. When you’re running or biking or swimming, it’s easy to ground yourself by focusing on the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, or the bumps in the path, or the water around you. And grounding is one of the best ways to help manage anxiety symptoms, especially during anxiety attacks.
ADHD, PTSD, and trauma
Depression and anxiety aren’t the only parts of your mental health that exercise can help. It can aid other disorders and ailments too.
Exercising improves energy levels, and stimulates the release of certain chemicals in the brain— many of which help with focus. For this reason, many people say that exercise is a great way to manage the symptoms of ADHD.
Additionally, the grounding effects of anxiety, as well as its general benefits, can help to manage or even lessen the symptoms of PTSD and trauma responses. Overall, it seems like exercise really is a one-size-fits-all activity!
Memory and brain function
The benefits of exercise extend beyond common mental disorders and issues. It can also improve the overall functions of your brain, both in the short and long term.
Those endorphins that help you feel better? They also help stimulate healthy brain growth, and improve both memory and focus. Long-term, they continue to contribute to healthy brain growth and can prevent age-related decline.
Exercising can boost your self-esteem, even (and especially) when you take weight out of the picture. It just makes you feel good, which in turn helps you to feel better about yourself.
Exercise is also a great way for you to remind yourself of how strong your body really is, and what you’re capable of. This is especially helpful if you’re recovering from some kind of injury, as it shows you how much progress you’ve made.
Sleep and energy levels
The chemicals produced when you exercise boost your body’s energy levels. Although you may feel exhausted right after a workout, within a few hours you will start to feel more energized, and perhaps even more motivated than you were before. Regular exercise can help you maintain consistently high energy levels.
Additionally, the benefits of exercise also extend to sleep. Even a little bit helps to regulate your sleep patterns, and give you deeper, more fulfilling sleep. So exercise can be a great, simple way to help with sleep problems.
Lastly, exercise just makes you feel better and happier in the moment. Unlike many self-care activities, exercise provides instant gratification, which means that you feel good immediately. This is great because it makes you more likely to keep doing it; if you feel the benefits right away, you know they are there and that you can come back for more.
The reasons why exercise is good for you aren’t just mental— although, admittedly, we like the mental health benefits more. But again, increasing your physical health is a great way to boost your mental health, and the physical benefits alone are also important.
Muscles and bones
Exercise can help strengthen your bones when you’re younger, and decrease the risk of bone problems later in life. And even more noticeably, it’s great for your muscles.
Muscle growth isn’t just for appearance or aesthetics— it’s also important for your physical health. Having stronger muscles will help prevent injuries in many areas. It can also decrease the risk of losing muscle mass as you age, which tends to make you weaker. So building up a little bit of muscle is good for you, and you don’t have to be a bodybuilder— just a bit is enough.
Reduced risk of disease
One of the best benefits of exercise is that it reduces your risk of many chronic diseases, especially those involving the heart. Because it is good for your heart and improves many other body systems, it keeps you healthier and more able to fight off health problems.
Overall wellness and your immune system
With all of the benefits of exercise, it’s no wonder that it increases the overall wellness of your body, and helps you feel better as a whole. Additionally, exercise can help boost your immune system, which helps you fight off many diseases and illnesses.
Consistent exercise can also be a very effective way of managing chronic pain. There’s a reason that one of the most common treatments for chronic pain is physical therapy.
This is because constant exercise will help to strengthen your body. And if you strengthen around where the pain is— say, for example, a joint in your foot— then the muscles and tendons there will be able to handle more, thus decreasing your pain.
There is also a theory that exercise doesn’t actually decrease pain— it simply increases your pain tolerance. Because pain is nothing but the perception of signals in the brain, we can train our bodies to ignore “lower” pain signals, thus decreasing the pain we feel.
While exercise in general is helpful, it’s always great to get specific care if you suffer from chronic pain. A doctor or physical therapist can help you find the activities that will help you most.
How often should I exercise, and how?
The truth is, that’s up to you. You get to choose what type of exercise you do and how often, based on what you want, what you need, and what benefits you want.
In general, though, you don’t need to spend hours at the gym every week. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes of activity, 3-5 times a week, can have incredible benefits for you.
So remember that you’re doing this to improve your physical and mental health, and that the benefits of exercise extend far beyond weight. And it is highly customizable, so you can do it in whatever way makes you feel best.
Do you love exercising? Know of other benefits you want to share? Have exercise tips? We’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below or tag us on social media (@llctherapeutic on Twitter and @therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram).