When it comes to the benefits of regular exercise, it’s common to focus only on physical benefits like weight loss and improved muscle tone. While these are important effects of exercise, it’s also helpful to think about the mental health benefits that can come with regular physical activity. Working out doesn’t just help you look good; it can help you feel good as well. In fact, research shows that exercise can have a positive impact on many different mental disorders, including depression and anxiety.
If you are struggling with any type of mental illness, consult a mental health professional to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. It’s likely that exercise will play an integral part on your road to recovery. Continue reading for a closer look at how your mind benefits when you get your body moving.
Physical activity works in multiple ways to boost your mood. First, it produces feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which immediately help you feel positive and more energized. Along with this immediate improvement in your mood, exercise can boast long-term benefits for your mental health by stimulating physical changes in the brain like neural growth and reduced inflammation—in turn, you may experience more feelings of calmness and overall well-being.
Exercise is also a great distraction. If you find yourself fixating on negative thought patterns, taking a walk, lifting weights, or participating in an exercise class can take your mind off those thoughts for a while and lift your mood.
Even before you start seeing changes on the scale or in the mirror, exercise can have a strong impact on your self-esteem. As you start noticing improved strength and stamina by working out several times a week, you’ll gain a sense of achievement that can help your self-esteem skyrocket. And of course, once you do start seeing more results through weight loss or toned muscles, you’ll feel even better about yourself.
Disturbed sleep is a common effect of mental illness. It can also contribute to low daytime energy, overeating, and a negative mood, among other issues. Fortunately, exercise can improve your nightly sleep so that you enjoy a higher quality of life every day. For optimal benefits to your sleep schedule, get your most intense exercise—like fast-paced cardio and weight training—in the morning or early afternoon. The evening is the perfect time for more relaxing physical activity, like a gentle yoga practice, to wind down the body and mind.
Major depression and other mental health problems are often accompanied by symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, and poor focus. Regular physical activity can contribute to an increase in energy as well as sharper cognitive skills. By simply increasing your heart rate a few times per week, you’ll notice that you have more energy to take on your day and gradually increase the length and frequency of your workouts. The same endorphins that help lift your mood after a workout will also help improve your cognitive function—you’ll feel sharper and more focused over time. These effects aren’t short-lived, either. Continued physical activity can prevent age-related cognitive decline so that you have a lower chance of dealing with dementia and depression as you get older.
Stress manifests both physically and mentally, and it can take a toll on your wellbeing. Exercise helps break the stress cycle by curbing the production of cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone. In addition to chemical effects in the endocrine system, exercise also helps the muscles relax and release tension, so you can combat the aches and pains that tend to accompany daily stress. Exercise can improve other symptoms of stress over time as well, such as stomach upset, insomnia, and chest tightness.
Unfortunately, it’s simply not possible to remove all of the mental and emotional challenges in life that can impact your mental health. However, it is possible to build more resilience to these challenges, so you can utilize healthier coping mechanisms. If you tend to respond to stress and negative emotions with comfort foods, alcohol, or other destructive habits, beginning an exercise routine can help you avoid these behaviors. Along with your mental fortitude, your physical resilience benefits from exercise as well. Regular activity can improve your immune health to lessen the physical impacts of stress, so you feel healthier overall.
No matter where you currently are with your physical fitness, Body Essentials can help you build an exercise regimen that works for you. With on-demand personal training, group fitness classes, and semi-private group training, you can find the program that’s right for your wellness goals. Our trainers are personally invested in the success of our clients and offer flexible scheduling to help you get fit on your own terms. Call us at 802-345-9644 to begin your fitness journey.
Despite their many potential pitfalls, fad diets are everywhere. These types of diets are easy to spot—they promote seemingly magical results with promises of rapid weight loss. Unfortunately, they also tend to be incredibly restrictive and not based in solid nutritional science. At best you might see a single study or a few anecdotal testimonials supporting claims of a fad diet’s success. Still, it can be tempting to try out a new diet if it promises to help you lose 10, 15, or 20 pounds in a matter of weeks. Here’s a closer look at why you should avoid that temptation.
Juice cleanses, the Keto Diet, the Fenoboci Diet… these are just a few of many recent diet trends that have been featured all over social feeds, magazines, and other media. You may even know someone personally who raves about their results with one of these programs. However, they’re called fad diets for a reason.
Although there’s always some trending diet making headlines, the individual plans are never the same—that’s because they simply don’t work. Most of these diets rely on extreme measures like cutting out entire food groups, significantly restricting your caloric intake, or even fasting for long periods of time. These strategies don’t add up to long-term weight loss. Even if you see results on the scale initially, they aren’t likely to last.
Fad diets tend to rely on claims that cutting out key foods or combining certain foods will result in weight loss. However, when you eliminate whole food groups, you may not get all the vital nutrients you need for good health. For example, avoiding carbohydrates altogether could have you lacking fiber in your diet. Instead, it would be more beneficial to swap out simple carbohydrates for complex ones, such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice.
Following a restrictive diet plan, you may experience dehydration, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and constipation. The Keto Diet even warns followers of the Keto Flu, which may include symptoms of irritability, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, muscle cramps, and poor concentration—clear signs that the body is struggling to adapt to an extreme diet. Over a longer period, these effects may significantly damage your health and put you at risk for more serious problems.
Because fad diets aren’t nutritionally well-rounded, you may be lacking the building blocks you need for cardiovascular and strength training workouts. Exercise is a key ingredient for weight loss, as it helps you burn calories, build lean muscle, and boost your metabolism. However, you need a solid foundation of good nutrition to get your body ready to exercise.
To ensure that your body is fueled for your workouts, you should focus on balancing what you eat. Add more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to your diet while working to avoid processed foods, added sugars, and high sodium foods. In addition, you should stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout your day and even more during your workouts. Pre- and post-workout snacks including protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates—for example, a banana and a handful of nuts—can help you quickly refuel and stick to your fitness plan.
If you’ve ever followed an incredibly restrictive diet, you know that food cravings and temptations don’t simply disappear. It’s tough to stick to extreme fad diets, and most don’t even encourage sticking to the diet long-term. So inevitably, you’ll transition back to a different way of eating, most likely falling back on old habits. As a result, you will probably see weight gain, which can ultimately be even more dangerous. Yo-yo dieting can throw hormonal levels off balance, put stress on your cardiovascular system, and cause you to gain more harmful belly fat.
Selecting the right diet plan isn’t always easy. There are lots of factors to consider, including your dietary preferences, your previous experience with different diet plans, and your individual weight loss goals. That’s why the lifestyle and nutritional coaching programs at Body Essentials are customized to your needs and include ongoing support from a dedicated coach. As part of our Flourishing Program, we offer 21 Day Nutrition Challenges every other month that include different food themes, live group coaching, & weekly educational video lessons. The purpose is to support participants while providing accountability to the varying nutrition needs of all participants. Our next challenge begins on Tuesday September 14th!
Before you commit to any diet program, schedule a one-on-one consultation with a lifestyle and nutritional coach at Body Essentials. Our online personal training and coaching services can help you fit nutrition and wellness into your busy lifestyle. We also provide on-demand fitness classes and personal training sessions, so you can stay fit and active throughout your journey. Call us today at 802-345-9644 or request a consultation on our website.