The benefits of physical activity are lowered anxiety levels (better mental health) as well as more energy, improved sleep patterns and even boosted immune systems. Consider also a 2011 New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds, “Why Exercise Makes Us Feel Good.” The article goes so far as to say that physically active lab mice actually seemed to be “stress resilient” when placed into typically stressful environments and ultimately kept from the symptoms of depression that many of their controlled counterparts experienced in those same situations.
People who want to be mentally and physically healthy respect their bodies, actively stand against substance abuse, and choose not to smoke or binge drink. These choices show long-term thinking and the intentional choice to step up to healthier lifestyles.
The results of a healthy diet and exercise may lead to a healthier body and beyond that, endorphins released from exercising have actually been shown to ease the grip of depression in many people. The physical make-up of the brain shows greater development patterns in specific regions for physically active individuals.
“Runner’s High” is a term used to describe the phenomena one may experience after aerobic exercise due to the amount of increased endorphins pulsing to and from the brain with each heartbeat. It’s euphoric and it’s also hard to imagine for persons who dread the thought of running or starting a new exercise program.
One tip that has been helpful for many people is to schedule exercise on a calendar and treat it as an appointment. So while the goal to run a 5K may be overwhelming, a 3 p.m. appointment to jog through the park may be a more feasible place to start.
Even small steps add up. If a jog through the park seems extreme to you, start with a walk around the block. Park farther away and walk a few more steps to your destination. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Lift some cans from your pantry while watching TV if that seems a reasonable place to start. The point is to start! Remember that diet and exercise should not be treated as a fad to lose weight – it is a commitment you make to yourself for a better life.