Benefits of Working Out for Our Mental Health

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a staggering 4 out of 10 people have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, as compared to 2019 where it was 1 out of 10. Contributing to the rise in mental health concerns during this time are the changes to everyone’s routine (i.e., childcare, nutrition, wellness, exercise) forced on them by the virus.

Strength training not only builds muscle, boosts strength, and burns fat, but it can have a considerable positive impact on our daily mindset. Exercising of all types, including cardio, resistance training, conditioning, and yoga provides real benefits to the brain and our ability to persevere through life’s challenges.

Improved Mood And Increased Energy

Depression is a mood disorder that contributes to feeling a substantial amount of sadness and apathy. A recent study from the Journal of Psychology found measurable improvements in participants’ moods right after one session of exercise.

For the lifters out there, who aren’t sure if completing a single workout is worth it, the evidence shows it can improve attitude, mindset, and mood positively. Even more promising are the results from a study published in The American Journal of Epidemiology that showed adults who participated in a regular physical activity program had reduced rates of both long-term and acute depression, regardless of their age, sex, ethnicity, financial situation, BMI, and a great many of other factors.

Like depression, anxiety-related disorders have risen over the past decade. Anxiety, by definition, is a mental health condition that causes one to feel excessive worry, unease, and nervousness over a particular situation or unknown circumstance.

Exercise has been shown to benefit anxious individuals. A 2020 study from the journal Scientific Reports found that resistance training reduced symptoms of anxiety among young adults within the first week of training. Additionally, a 2017 meta-analysis from Sports Medicine found that resistance training improved anxiety symptoms among healthy participants and in participants with a mental or physical illness.

The bottom line is that staying frequently active can help with both anxious and depressive thoughts and feelings. 

Gaining A Larger Sense Of Purpose

Taking control of your schedule and planning time to train or do other exercise can give someone a sense of accomplishment. So much of our work and social lives involve technology that getting away from computer and phone screens and engaging in exercise provides new perspectives.

Developing healthy habits around exercise usually requires gradual progress, and motivation tends to gradually increase after you start your training program. For those who think they need motivation to start, it’s important for them to realize it tends to come after they get started, not before. The present prescription is to move for about 20-30 minutes a day, three days a week. It can be intimidating to start a new workout routine, but don’t hesitate to start small and build on that. For example, taking a walk on your lunch break for 20 minutes each day can help boost your mental and physical health. Finding something you enjoy is key. If our conditioning classes are not for you, you might find joy in learning about the barbell and starting your journey with powerlifting!

Better Sleep Quality and Improved Recovery

Sleep is essential for physical and mental recovery. Good quality sleep helps the brain process emotional information. Research shows that exercise improves sleep quality and overall sleep satisfaction. For example, a systematic review from the European Journal of Physiotherapy found that moderate exercise was extremely effective in improving sleep quality in both young and older populations. Additionally, research says that moderate exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep we get, which is the part of our sleep when our brain rejuvenates and processes information.

When we experience good quality, deep sleep, growth hormones are also released. These hormones help stimulate muscle growth and repair, bone building, and fat burning. With sleep deprivation, on the other hand, the body’s muscles recover more slowly, and mood can decrease.

Exercise can play a role in benefiting someone who is experiencing depression and/or anxiety. It is an essential part of not only symptom relief, but it can also help you sleep better, which in turn helps the brain process and manage emotions and situations more efficiently and effectively!