We tend to think of exercise as a preventive measure, something that helps us maintain our general fitness or ensures we can still fit into our favourite jeans. Positively, the mental health benefits of exercise are increasingly discussed by fitness professionals on social channels and in the media as well. However, this tends to be limited to discussing things like the post-workout high, or the feel-good endorphins experienced after training, but there are many more chapters to the story of healing and fitness.
Physical activity aids nearly every system in the body. When you exercise, you create stress throughout your body, specifically the heart, lungs, and muscles. It produces inflammation, causing micro-traumas in our muscles. Then the amazing bit happens, you repair during rest (we always knew there was something magical about a weekend nap!). All of these stresses and physical micro-traumas become small stimulants to healing that induce our whole system to repair itself and keep us in good health.
The three systems
This healing process doesn’t just affect your physical system, it has a powerful effect on your mental and spiritual systems too. There is nothing airy-fairy about considering the mind-body connection. By changing the body’s production of happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, exercise works as a natural antidepressant, decreasing depression symptoms like decreased motivation, and improving your overall mood.
There has been a lot of research into the effects of a stressful life on our bodies. We can’t handle stress at chronic levels and exercise is one method to bring relaxation and relief to a stressed body. Even exercisers who can’t eliminate their sources of stress can manage it better and in the long-term suffer fewer negative effects as a result of the influence exercise has on our stress hormones.
Redirecting your energy
One of the best things about exercising, and something our PT’s often hear their clients’ comment on, is how good it feels to focus on something other than their life for an hour while they train. Something like a PT session can help break the cycle of worrying by redirecting our emotional, mental and physical energy. During a tough weight lifting session, you’re not thinking about bills or your to-do list and, by the end, your mind has reset so you won’t be thinking about the same things you were before the workout.
Nourishing your largest organ
Not only does exercise help to decrease stress, lift your mood and help repair muscles throughout the body, your largest organ, the skin, gets to enjoy benefits too! By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keep it in tip-top condition. In addition to providing oxygen, blood flow also helps carry away waste products, including cell-damaging free radicals. It’s like having an indulgent facial from the inside.
Sleep to get fitter
Now, all of these brilliant benefits of fitness wouldn’t happen without getting enough sleep. Fortunately, exercise has a chemical effect on the brain. It causes the body to create more of the chemicals that make us feel sleepy, so you’ll be able to fall asleep more easily at night. Working out also helps you maintain your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock), helping your body understand the schedule it’s on. Morning exercise primes your body to sleep better at night, so you’ll get all of the healing and restorative duvet time you need!
If you’d like to enjoy some of these life-changing benefits, download our app to find a personal trainer to take you on your healing journey: