Regular exercise is great for your physical well-being. Lower blood sugar, better cholesterol levels, decreased body fat, increased muscle mass and better flexibility head up the list of advantages to keeping fit. Did you also know that numerous recent studies have uncovered marked psychological improvements in people who are fit? Yes, exercise can put you in a good mood and keep you there!
According to Richard Norris, PhD at the University of Birmingham in England, the psychological and physiological benefits of exercise begin early. In several studies, 200 adolescents were put through a ten-week fitness training regime. Besides the evident physical improvements, subjects also reported less anxiety, depression, hostility, and stress after regular exercise. Further studies on other populations reported that regular exercise also quickens the mind’s ability to process information, improves memory and retention, and sharpens the decision- making processes. As it turns out, there is a real and tangible mind/body connection in all of us!
For most people, getting to the gym is a chore. Once there, it can be tough to muster the strength to work out on a regimented basis. Yet once a person starts exercising regularly (even just 20 minutes per day!) it doesn’t take long to feel and see the wonderful changes that begin to take place in the human body. Exercising can then be seen as something really good that you can do for yourself! Psychologically it just goes to show that if you have a goal, you want badly enough and are prepared to work for it, you can achieve almost anything you desire in life. The confidence and self-esteem you build in the gym can carry over into work performance, social relationships, and just about every other aspect of life.
For people who deal with depression, anxiety and other stress related disorders, exercise is truly a must. Physical activities like weight training, hiking, yoga, Pilates, swimming and even walking release powerful painkilling, feel-good, chemicals in the body called endorphins and enkephalins. These hormones counteract the fatigue, aches, pains, and bad feelings caused by other stress induced and destructive hormones like cortisol.
A word of warning is in order. Even exercise can be overdone. You need to be an avid fitness enthusiast, not an addict. When a person becomes so hooked on exercise that it becomes the driving, dominating force in life, excluding family, friends and job, something is out of order. Some guys won’t even take a break from working out when they are injured. This is pure craziness! Others become so hell-bent on having the perfect body that they cheat by using outlandish supplements and banned drugs. Exercise is great. It is essential to living and enjoying a better quality of life. But when it goes beyond reasonable limits, a healthy reality check or counseling from an expert in addiction may be in order.