New Year’s Eve. The ball drops and the clock strikes midnight. Millions around the world celebrate in unison, welcoming the birth of a new year while saying farewell to all the things that could have been. As the eastern skyline glows with the year’s first sunrise, optimism wakes the world with the promise of a fresh start on the projects, life changes and goals that were left unfinished from years past. Of all the resolutions made each year, exercise is most likely at the top of most lists. To exercise more is no doubt a great resolution to make. It’s an integral aspect of leading a healthy life, but most people focus on the physical aspects of exercise and overlook the mental benefits. Studies show that people who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer from depression. Exercise is equally important for both physical and psychological health.
In order to maximize your health potential, both the body and the mind need to function in harmony. Exercise is just as important for solid mental health as it is for physical health. Psychological benefits that come from exercising include everything from reduced stress to a positive boost in mood. Exercise stimulates the body to release endorphins, which can produce feelings of euphoria, energy and optimism. These endorphins can also interact with the receptors in your brain, helping to reduce the body’s perception of pain. Endorphins are manufactured all over the body but specifically in the brain and spinal cord and when they bind with the body’s neuron receptors, they produce the same feeling as morphine. Unlike morphine, these natural reactions in the body do not lead to addiction and dependence. With that being said, exercise can be addictive due to the way it naturally stimulates the body and soothes the brain. If you are just starting a program or you have taken time off, the first week can be tough. Those who fight through that first week will begin to enjoy the benefits of feeling better both physically and mentally. The physical and mental payoffs from exercise work hand in hand. Psychologically, people see a boost in self-esteem as they watch their physical appearance improve, which encourages them to continue exercising.
It’s said that it takes thirty days to change a habit and those who stick with their new workout regimen resolutions through January are more likely to continue through the rest of the year. Regular exercise is an important part of maximizing physical and mental health. The pros are endless and studies show exercise can help with everything from reducing stress and boosting self-esteem to diminishing anxiety and depression. Exercise is an integral component of mental health and the research out there backs this fact. Sadly, exercise is often overlooked as an effective treatment for mild to moderate cases of depression. Rather than jumping on a bicycle or unrolling a yoga mat, we’re more likely to pop a pill and schedule time with a therapist. There is no question that therapy and psychotropic drugs play an important role when treating depression in some, but we forget that therapy also takes place in a swimming pool or walking with friends. The glow you see on people exiting the gym is real and when your body feels good, the mind will follow.
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