Everyone knows that exercise is good for your body--that's why most of us do it! But did you know that you're not just taking care of your body when you work out? You're taking care of your mind and your emotions as well.
Think about it. Why do people enjoy working out so much? Sure, our muscles get bigger and our waists get smaller, but how do we feel afterward? After all, those physical results don't appear overnight. You have to put the hard work in, day in and day out before you see them. Fortunately, the mental health benefits appear relatively quickly.
Exercising makes you feel good about yourself, especially after completing a particularly difficult workout. Even if you don't automatically lose ten pounds, your self-esteem shoots up. You realize you're capable of more than you thought you were, and you reach a level of self-confidence that you never knew you could.
There are more scientific benefits, of course. One study found that a person who suffered mild to moderate depression found as much relief from exercise as they did from antidepressants. That's huge! As it turns out, exercise releases the "happy" chemicals in your brain, and people who run for 15 minutes a day, or walk for an hour a day, are a lot less likely to suffer from major depressive episodes.
Exercise's relationship to anxiety is very similar. When you're anxious, your body is filled with tension, and working out helps relieve that tension, but it also helps you ground yourself. When people have anxiety attacks, some of the most helpful things they can do involve breathing and taking note of the physical things around them. Doing so brings them back down to earth, in a sense. People who have anxiety should exercise but not let themselves zone out. They should pay close attention to the rhythm of their feet hitting the floor, the feeling of wind on their skin, and the quality of breaths that they take. Doing so will calm the anxious person down and help them feel better, not to mention get the most out of their workouts.
Pretty cool, huh? Next time you go for a run, keep these benefits in mind and see if you can notice a difference in your mental health before and after your workout is complete. We think you'll love the results!