I’m sure you already know that regular exercise is good for your physical health. When conducted properly it can and will improve your aerobic fitness, muscle strength and/or flexibility not to mention help you lose body fat and/or gain lean muscle mass.
But did you know that regular exercise is also great for your psychological health? Because it is! In fact, regular exercise is possibly the cheapest and most effective stress buster, anti-depressant and mood enhancer! Every time you go to the gym or run around a park you might not realise it but you’re actually exercising your brain!
So next time you’re working out, give yourself a pat on the back for making an effort to improve your physical and psychological well being. And it might help to focus on these five great reasons for exercising that don’t just involve the physical…
Setting and working towards goals provides an enormous sense of satisfaction and achievement; and working towards physical goals in the gym or on the road is no different. Accordingly, people who exercise regularly tend to experience and enjoy more opportunities to feel good about what they’re achieving and their lives in general.
Self-efficacy is the technical term for having a sense of control over our lives and believing we can influence outcomes (in a positive or desirable way). Exercising regularly and achieving, as noted above, can enhance this and increase the extent to which we believe we can change and control other areas of our lives as well.
Similar to the first two points we can gain substantial amounts of confidence from feeling physically strong. This isn’t just about “looking good” but more so, about feeling good about our bodies and how we can use them.
Many people (myself included) feel that when they go to the gym and/or work out in groups that they’re part of something bigger than themselves; a community, so to speak, of others who share a similar interest in health and wellbeing. This sense of connectedness is vital for real and meaningful happiness and can combat loneliness and isolation as well as provide support and motivation during tough times.
Last but not least, exercise can be fun and/or provide the energy and fitness to enjoy other activities that are fun. In fact, the latter, in my humble opinion, is really why we should be exercising regularly; not just to build big muscles or have a six pack but more importantly, so we can get out and engage in adventures with friends, play with our kids, enjoy all that life has to offer! Exercise shouldn’t really ever be the end goal but rather, a means to living a great life!
A massive amount of research has found, over recent years, that regular exercise is good for our health and wellbeing. It will help you live long and live better. But notably, there’s almost as much research showing that regular exercise is good for our mood and psychological status; it will protect you from stress and depression and increase your chances of feeling good and happy. So keep up the movement and activity and know that you’ll gain just as much mentally as you will physically!
Dr. Timothy Sharp is the Founder & Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute. He’s a clinical and coaching psychologist, writer and speaker, and regular media commentator. His area of speciality is Positive Psychology (or the science of happiness) and you can find him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.