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5 Ways Exercising Benefits Your Mental Health

Group workout in gym smiling and happy


With May comes spring rains, fresh flowers and the promise of summer. However, it is also Mental Health Awareness month, making it an important time to focus on our mental well-being. Self-care is a hot button topic coming off the heels of the pandemic, many are searching for ways to shake off what feels to be the weight of the world on their shoulders. This process can be overwhelming. Where do we even begin? The answer can be very simple: exercise.
One benefit of exercise that is often overlooked is the positive impact that it has on our brains and mood. Of course, we are all probably familiar by now with some of the more common results of regular exercise, such as less body fat, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of diabetes, etc. Though there is one component that can sometimes get glossed over and that’s the enhancement on our mental health.
It has been scientifically proven that exercise can boost your mood by helping curve the negative symptoms brought on by depression and anxiety. When we work out, endorphins are created in the brain and spinal cord, which are partially responsible for creating feelings of happiness and euphoria. When we experience these types of sensations, it is only natural that they combat depression and our overall melancholy feelings. Even with moderate exercise, you can begin to shake away the blues. Sometimes, doctors even ‘prescribe’ a regular workout routine before turning to medications.

If you’re looking for a great way to get started, and you like being led in a group setting, try taking a group fitness class. At Woodside, a Westwood wellness center, they have a varied and robust course schedule to choose from. From novice to advanced, one of these classes is sure to get you up and going in no time at all. Yoga, spin and pilates are just naming a few of the great choices available at no additional cost with every membership.
Couple in spa getting massages, relaxing in spa
If there is one thing that can weigh negatively on anyone’s mood, it’s stress. Stress works hard to deteriorate our mental health at every turn. Exercise is a great answer to alleviating some of that tension. When we work out, our heart rate increases, triggering the production of neurohormones such as norepinephrine. This chemical can actually help reverse some of the stress-induced brain damage as well as improve our mood and lift the rain cloud that stressful events tend to leave hanging over us. Also, exercise forces the different systems within our body to communicate and work cohesively, leading to an improved ability to react and respond to stress.

After your workout, pop by The Spa at Woodside for a few more ways to unwind and alleviate stress. Try a luxury massage, a signature facial or simply kick back and relax for a while in the heated indoor pool or hot tub. No matter what you choose, pairing this treat after a rigorous workout is sure to help melt the blues away. 
Goal-setting and achievements are a huge part of regularly exercising. Whether your goals are big or small, long-term or short-term, reaching them are sure to boost your self-esteem and overall view of yourself. If you’re out to lose fifty pounds, shave off some time on your one-mile jog or simply just want to become more sociable and active, reaching achievements will begin to add up and before too long, you will find yourself with not only a renewed body, but a spirit and mood as well

If you need to gain some confidence in your routine and you aren’t sure where to begin, consider booking a session with a personal trainer. At Woodside, their personal trainers are there to help tailor make a program just for you, making it adaptable, but also realistic. Let one of these trained professionals show you the ropes and help you navigate your way to reaching your goals. 
It is no secret that a foul mood can arise when someone is sleep deprived, especially if it is a regular occurrence. When we’re exhausted, our bodies and minds struggle to keep us focused, alert and happy. Physical activity increases body temperature, which has calming effects on the brain. In turn, this allows us to fall asleep faster and catch more of those precious ‘Z’s’. Exercise is also responsible for regulating our circadian rhythm, which serves as a built-in alarm clock of sorts. Without this, our bodies have a difficult time establishing a routine of when to feel tired and when to feel alert. However, since exercising increases endorphins that hype us up, try not to work out super close to bedtime. 
Not only does exercise help lift the fog that can shroud our minds, it can also build intelligence and strength memories. When studies were conducted of both mice and humans, the results indicated that cardiovascular exercise created new brain cells through a process called ‘neurogenesis’, leading to improved brain performance. This also helps prevent cognitive decline, or memory loss, by strengthening the hippocampus. This portion of the brain is responsible for some key items such as retaining memories and learning.

If you’re in need of some inspiration or are working through a few big decisions or ideas, physical activity has been proven to boost both mental energy and creativity. So hop on the treadmill or go for a swim to help increase cognitive function and find the answers to your questions.
No matter how you look at it, our mental health is important, and determines a lot about how we function from one day to the next. These benefits aren’t just reserved for the month of May – they can be practiced anytime, all throughout the year! Remember, it’s about self-care and treating your mind and spirit with just as much care and priority as your physical well-being. Our bodies contain systems that work in tandem to keep us energized, happy and healthy, and our brains are in the captain’s chair of it all. 

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