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How getting active can improve your mental health

Life is busy and full of stressors and sometimes it's so easy to forget that we have the power to reduce that stress, just by simply moving our bodies more. It doesn't have to be a 5k marathon, or a HIIT workout class. We can simply put some music on and dance it out! We all love a good dance party, right?! It just feels good to move your body. But, in case you need more reasons to get active, keep reading...

 
3 girls getting active in a gym wearing fitness clothing
 

listen to this episode below!

 

Here are some ways exercise can boost your mood:

  1. Releasing endorphins: When you exercise, your body goes through some changes, and one of them is the release of endorphins. As you start moving and working out, your brain senses that your body is doing something exciting and a bit challenging. In response to this, it releases endorphins into your bloodstream. This happens for a few reasons: *Pain Reduction: When you exercise, especially during more intense workouts, your muscles and joints may experience some level of discomfort or strain. In response to this physical stress, your brain releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. Endorphins bind to specific receptors in your brain and spinal cord, reducing your perception of pain and making you feel more comfortable while you work out. *Stress Response: Physical activity, especially when it gets your heart rate up, triggers what's known as the "fight or flight" response in your body. This is an ancient survival mechanism that prepares your body to face challenges or escape threats. As part of this response, your brain releases endorphins to help you deal with the stress and anxiety that may come with exercise, allowing you to keep going and pushing through the workout. Once the endorphins are released, they travel to your brain and bind to specific receptors. This binding process sends signals to your brain that you're feeling good and happy. That's why after a good workout, you might experience a sense of joy, a "runner's high," or just feel more content and less stressed. The best part is that endorphins don't just boost your mood during exercise; their effects can last even after your workout is done. That's why many people feel happier and more relaxed throughout the day when they've been physically active in the morning, for example. So, the more you exercise, the more endorphins your brain releases, and the better you might feel overall. Plus, regular exercise has other health benefits too, like improving your heart health, reducing stress, and keeping your body in good shape. Remember, you don't have to do intense workouts to enjoy the benefits of endorphins. Even moderate exercise, like going for a walk or doing some light stretching, can still trigger the release of these "feel-good" chemicals.

  2. Releases cortisol: During exercise, your brain releases cortisol as part of the body's natural stress response. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a crucial role in helping your body cope with physical and mental stressors. Here's why your brain releases cortisol when you exercise: *Stress Adaptation: When you engage in physical activity, your body perceives it as a form of stress. Whether it's running, lifting weights, or doing any other type of exercise, your body experiences increased demand for energy and heightened physiological responses. In response to this stress, your brain signals the adrenal glands to release cortisol. *Energy Regulation: Cortisol helps regulate energy metabolism during exercise. It stimulates the release of glucose (sugar) from your liver into the bloodstream, providing your muscles with a quick source of fuel. This is especially important during more intense workouts when your muscles need extra energy to perform at their best. *Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Cortisol also has anti-inflammatory properties. While inflammation is a natural part of the body's healing process, excessive inflammation can lead to discomfort or hinder recovery. Cortisol helps to reduce inflammation, allowing your body to recover more effectively after exercise. *Blood Pressure Regulation: During exercise, your heart rate and blood pressure increase to meet the demands of your muscles. Cortisol helps to maintain blood pressure levels within a healthy range during physical activity. *Endorphin Control: As we discussed earlier, exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which make you feel good and reduce pain. Cortisol helps regulate the effects of endorphins, preventing them from causing extreme highs or lows in mood during and after exercise. It's essential to note that while cortisol has beneficial effects during exercise, chronically elevated cortisol levels due to ongoing stress can have negative consequences on your health. Prolonged stress and elevated cortisol levels have been associated with issues such as weight gain, impaired immune function, and increased risk of certain health conditions.

  3. Provides a sense of accomplishment: Setting goals and reaching them can provide a sense of accomplishment and pride, which can help improve your mood and overall well-being. Remember to always set goals that are realistic, and manageable for YOU and YOUR life! Setting a goal and working toward it gives us a clear sense of direction and purpose. As we make progress and get closer to achieving the goal, we feel a sense of forward movement and accomplishment. This often requires effort, perseverance, and learning new skills. The process of overcoming challenges and obstacles helps us grow and develop as individuals, leading to a sense of personal achievement that we can be PROUD of! Plus.. Accomplishing goals triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine in the brain, which are associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. You see, our brains are so smart but also so easy to trick at the same time! ;)

  4. Social interaction: There's so much research and information about the importance of community on our mental health. Sometimes it's our family, sometimes our coworkers, our friend group... But also, as life progresses these communities can change a lot. People move away, interests change, friends grow apart. Exercise is a great opportunity for social interaction and support if you are looking to grow your community. Joining a fitness class or sports team can help you make new friends, feel less lonely while working on your health goals, and have more fun while doing it! Group fitness classes, outdoor activities, hiking groups, and group trainings are a great way to get into these communities. (PS: we have group yoga and fitness classes at Wellness in the Village!)


Exercise is not just good for your body, it's good for your mind as well. Incorporating regular physical activity, no matter how small, into your routine can boost your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your overall mental health.

 

Here's a few fun, low-risk ways to start moving your body. Get your family & friends involved and get a friendly competition going!

  1. Dance Party: Have a solo dance party in your living room or invite some friends over for a dance-off. Crank up your favorite tunes and let loose with your best dance moves.

  2. Walking Adventures: Take a leisurely stroll in a nearby park or nature trail. Make it more exciting by exploring new paths or challenging yourself to find the most unusual-looking tree or bird.

  3. Hula Hoop Extravaganza: Grab a hula hoop and see how long you can keep it spinning around your waist. Challenge your friends or family members to a hula hoop competition for some laughs.

  4. Follow the Leader: Play a game of "Follow the Leader" with your friends or family. Take turns being the leader and come up with creative and silly movements for others to imitate.

  5. Balloon Volleyball: Blow up a balloon and play volleyball with friends using your hands or even makeshift paddles. It's a low-impact way to get moving while having a blast.

  6. Bubble Chasing: Blow bubbles and try to catch them before they hit the ground. You'll be surprised how much fun and physical effort it takes to pop those elusive bubbles!

  7. Animal Walks: Mimic animal movements like crab walking, bear crawling, or frog jumping. Not only is it amusing, but it also engages different muscles and adds variety to your exercise routine.

  8. Chalk Art Obstacle Course: Draw an obstacle course on your driveway or sidewalk with colorful chalk. Hop, skip, and jump your way through the course for a delightful workout.

 

Feel like you need a little accountability or extra support to incorporate physical activity into your busy schedule?


Send me a message to see how I can support you! Instagram: @bewellwithsteph_

 
Stephanie Genco. wellness & nutrition coach drinking a cup of coffee in her office.

Wondering if Nutrition Coaching might be a good fit for you and your struggles or goals? Let’s book a free Discovery Call and have a chat! More info & book here.

 

You are worthy of living and capable of creating a healthy lifestyle you love. 🤍

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