5 ways exercise can help your mental health

Find out how exercise can do more than just change your body

Exercise is great for loads of reasons: it gets your heart pumping, improves your fitness levels and can also be a lot of fun! But one of the positive side effects that often gets overlooked is the amazing effect it has on your mental health.

What are these effects, we hear you ask? Read on to find out.

Exercise can reduce stress

When we asked TSR users how exercise benefits their mental health, user jsmith6131 said:

"Exercise is a good way of relieving stress. Going for a cycle means you can have a nice think about something, but you can't spend too much energy on the thinking bit. It helps get whatever it is out of my system without upsetting me too much."

It can also improve your self-confidence

As Bulletzone explains, it can help you to realise that the opinions of others don't matter:

"I had very poor self-esteem, but ever since I've started going to the gym, I've stopped caring about what others think and only care what I think about myself."

Plus, it can also change the way you see yourself, as 8472 says:

"I got a huge boost from exercising. Now, regardless of how my body looks, I'm okay with it. I walk around the changing room naked with no fuss. Three years ago I didn't dare show skin and always wore hoodies."

... And get you feeling more sociable

As kiindling explains, getting out the house and exercising can also have a huge improvement on your social life:

"When I started college in September, I discovered there was a gym that was free and open to all students. So I started going to that a couple of times a week, then I got properly hooked. Soon enough, I got my friends involved, and I go four out of five school days a week, plus running at the weekends.

"I've definitely become a lot more confident. I used to absolutely despise how I looked, but when I could start to see changes I was one happy girl. And not just that, I've made friends! Good friends! I used to be super secluded from everyone, and now I find myself talking to people more, and generally being a cheerier person."

Exercise can give you a sense of purpose

When you're going through a dark time, it can feel like getting out of bed is the hardest thing in the world. Although doing exercise or a sport might seem overwhelming, having a reason to get up and get going can do you a world of good. PhysioStudent437 explains here:

"I didn't get the grades to get into my undergraduate course a few years back, and was actually pretty depressed. I felt like I lost purpose in life, I had no idea what I was waking up for everyday.

"Then I started Muay Thai/Kickboxing. I trained 6-7 days a week at my local club. I lost so much weight, starting eating healthier, got really fit and gained so much confidence in myself. I'm also pretty sure it saved my life. It gave me a reason to wake up every morning.

"Being a fighter is mentally and physically draining, and is one of the most difficult sports in the world. Only those who have fought in the ring will understand when every single fibre of your body is telling you to stop. You're exhausted, you're hurt, but you tell yourself to keep going, to keep fighting." 

It also boosts endorphins, known as 'happy chemicals'

Endorphins are hormones in your brain that can give you feelings like happiness and euphoria, and a great way to get a big boost of them in your body is by getting in some exercise!

Even if you aren't a fitness fanatic, just slotting in 30 minutes of activity a few times every week will get your heart pumping and give you a really quick boost while leaving you feeling much better.

As Danny Dorito describes: 

"Hitting the treadmill for a power walk on an incline is one of the best ways for me to work out any stress or anxiety I have and I always leave feeling better than I did before. Not only do I feel the benefits from the endorphins that exercise brings, but it has also improved my confidence and is something I can challenge myself with."

How has exercise helped your mental health? Get involved with the discussion below!

Related on TSR:

How to look after your mental health

Five ways exercise can help your mental health

How to get fit on a budget

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