The Exercise Effect: The Mental Benefits of Physical Activity
In this time of global crisis, stress, anxiety and uncertainty are at an all-time high. It is easy to get lost in the constant negative news cycle. Instead of getting down about our current circumstances, it’s more important now than ever to get up, get moving and exercise to boost your mood and increase your feelings of well-being.
Regular exercise can have a profound positive impact on your overall wellbeing. It also has been shown to relieve stress, improve your memory, help you to sleep better and boost your overall mood. This is mainly due to increased serotonin levels in the brain during exercise. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate mood, sleep and the production of new neurons. Research has shown that you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits, small amounts of exercise can make a big difference. While exercise might seem more difficult because of social distancing and gyms being closed, it is still possible to get in a great workout with a few modifications.
Mix It Up
If you’re stuck indoors right now, it’s a good idea to mix things up and get your exercise to be mentally stimulating and avoid burnout. While activities like a stationary bike or treadmill are great for maintaining physical activity, it can be tough mentally day after day looking at the same things. Try creating a routine that mixes up your activities daily or weekly and works on your weaknesses. Perhaps this is the ideal time to work on your mobility? Or building strength? Your physiotherapist will have ideas to aid you if you’re interested in integrating new exercises.
Do It Quick & Dirty
Even just 15 minutes of exercise per day can provide you with many of the mental health benefits needed to boost your mood,
decrease stress and improve your outlook. If you find it hard to get motivated to exercise for long periods of time, start small or try multiple short workouts instead:
- A 15 min walk around the neighbourhood
- A quick morning yoga flow
- A 10 min bodyweight circuit
Walking, running and cycling with others is a great way to socialize (from a distance of course) and make you feel happier overall. While COVID-19 may present challenges to getting together, using Zoom, Facetime or even a quick call pre or post-workout can be motivating and make you feel less isolated. Have a dedicated workout buddy? Try scheduling at least one weekly virtual workout with them and do it at the same time while online.