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Healthy Living for Women

5 Ways Fitness Benefits Your Mental Health

The physical results of exercise are a given, but there’s a lot more to be gained than a shredded physique.

The benefits of prioritizing fitness go well beyond a six-pack — although that’s a great bonus! Healthy lifestyle habits such as eating well and regular exercise can impact your mental health and emotional well-being, too.

You probably already know that exercise affects the way you feel. After all, the entire reason many fitness fanatics committed in the first place is for that reason. But do you know just how fitness plays a part in mental health? 

Here are some of the ways a consistent exercise and nutrition regimen can help you feel your best — starting today!

1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Feeling stressed? Try working out. Exercise boosts the “feel-good” hormones in the brain such as serotonin, giving the mind a rush of endorphins and fighting off any not-so-happy thoughts. It takes about 30 minutes, depending on the individual, before those hormones kick in. 

During a workout, you also might find that any worries you have about work, school, life or anything else fade into the background just because you’re focused on the task at hand. There’s nothing like a bit of distraction from the day’s stresses to rejuvenate your mind and boost mental health.

2. Improves Self-Esteem

When you live better, you feel better. The feeling of accomplishment after a workout and the gratification that comes from eating clean go hand in hand with improved self-esteem as you see and feel the physical results of your training and top-notch nutrition. 

When you feel better about your food choices and exercise regimen, you become more confident in yourself. Exercising and eating well regularly also prepare you to reach goals such as breaking a personal record and getting stronger or faster — all things that would make anyone feel good!

3. Better Concentration and Focus

What you feed your body, you feed your brain — that goes for both nutrition and regular exercise, which can aid in better concentration and focus.

What you consume also plays a role in how the brain functions and can affect mental health. Studies suggest that a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can affect brain function and potentially even protect the brain from damage over time.

4. Wards Off Depression

No one likes to feel down, and working out just might help beat the blues. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2018 analyzed 33 clinical trials to find out the effects of resistance exercise on mental health, and the results suggest it can significantly reduce depressive symptoms. The boost of hormones is once again the hero here. As with fighting off anxiety and stress, exercising can help the brain refocus on more positive thinking as the endorphins kick in. 

What you put into your body also plays a big role in fighting depression. Processed foods, too much caffeine and alcohol can be real depressors. Fueling your body with clean, balanced nutrition can provide your brain with what it needs to thrive. Several studies have shown that consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids may help ward off depression. So be sure to add fish, nuts, flaxseed oil and leafy greens to your next shopping list.

5. Better Sleep

Although endorphins make you feel happy and energetic, they also help you achieve a more relaxed state, meaning regular exercise can help you catch better zzz’s. Quality of sleep is very important for mental and emotional well-being, so not only does healthy living promote better sleep, but it also aids in relaxation. 

Exercise increases the amount of time you spend in a deep sleep, the stage where restorative benefits take place within the body and mind. This state of sleep assists in immune functioning and helps control stress and anxiety. Because exercise helps decrease anxiety, this also means you will likely end up sleeping better. Nearly half of adults say stressful thoughts keep them up at night, but exercise and clean eating can help diminish those feelings and help you reach a more relaxed mental state.

With all the benefits that come from a lifestyle of fitness, there is no better time than today to get moving and fueling your body with what it needs to function at its best!