When Covid was at its peak and everyone was home alone, isolated from friends and co-workers, feelings of loneliness, sadness and depression were on the rise in the general public. And, in my house. After months of pandemic restrictions and quarantines, I decided I needed to get back to the way I was feeling before Covid. But how without my usual gym time to de-stress? I needed to get my mind off of being stuck at home and focus on something productive, something positive. So this year, for the first time ever, I tried gardening. For the first time since covid began, I felt like my old self. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t think gardening would be such a workout but being out in the sun, hauling all of those bags of dirt, and getting the earth ready to plant really got my heart pumping! This physical activity really allowed me to hit the mood "reset button" and get back on track. My body was feeling happy just getting a little physical activity in and soon, my mind and mood followed suit.
Slowly, we move out of Covid times and back to normalcy with gyms fully opening. Most people think gyms are only for physical fitness but oh how wrong they are! The mental aspect of fitness is just as important as the physical. According to the Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, health benefits from regular exercise that should be emphasized and reinforced by every mental health professional to their patients include the following:
- Improved sleep
- Increased interest in sex
- Better endurance
- Stress relief
- Improvement in mood
- Increased energy and stamina
- Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
- Weight reduction
- Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness
You don’t have to get dirt under your fingernails to get that exercise in for your mental health. Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Going to the gym is a fast and easy way to get that mental break from reality and focus on yourself. Gyms are also a great resource for social interactions, positive focus, instant gratification and eventual results, and, a chance to release those happy brain chemicals called endorphins which result from working out. These chemicals help the brain fight against depression. Exercise also improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function
Intense exercise isn’t the only thing that can get those chemicals to release or feel the benefits of fitness. Exercise and physical activity sound the same, but they are different. While exercise is a planned repetitive body movement, physical activity is one that works your muscles and requires energy and body movement. You can get physical activity from gardening, walking, or even washing your car. You can also get a planned exercise routine from a personal trainer, joining a basketball or volleyball team, or join the fast walkers in your town/mall if you want something more intense.
To get more "feel good" from your workout, talk to one of our certified personal trainers to see what options are best for your physical and mental fitness.
Our thanks to Alexandria Montanez, Chesterton Programs Specialist, for writing this blog.
How Fitness Gyms Can Play Big Part in Improving Mental Health | Athletic Business
Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms - Mayo Clinic
Exercise for Mental Health - PMC (nih.gov)