Even if you know nothing else about “the gym,” you know that it’s a great way to get physically fit.
But did you know that exercising at the gym can also be great for your mental health?
Here are three big ways that working out at the gym can improve your mental well-being—so you can feel better all around!
1. Reducing anxiety and depression
Exercising at the gym is a natural way to reduce stress and anxiety. When you work out, your body releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Endorphins also help to alleviate some pain, which explains why many people feel better both physically and mentally after a great workout.
In addition to the endorphin boost, exercise also helps by giving you a sense of accomplishment and helping to increase your self-esteem. When you’re feeling good about yourself, it’s easier to manage stress and anxiety. For more information on how working out affects anxiety, see this article by Harvard Health.
2. Improving productivity and motivation
Adding on to the benefits of increased self-esteem, working out at the gym also leads to improved productivity and motivation. When you’re feeling good about yourself, it’s easier to get things done. And when you have more energy, it’s easier to stay focused and motivated.
Exercise also helps improve your sleep, which can further increase your productivity and motivation. When you’re well-rested, you have more energy and are able to think more clearly.
3. Improving brain function and fighting mental decline
Working out isn’t just good for your body—it’s also good for your brain. Regular exercise has been shown to improve brain function and protect against mental decline.
One way exercise helps is by increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Naturally, this helps the brain to function better in the short term. However, in the long term, working out can even help to fight against various mental ailments that fall under the umbrella of “dementia.” For more about that, check out this resource from Discover magazine: Does Exercise Prevent Dementia?
Now, it’s important to point out that working out isn’t something you do in a vacuum (even the astronauts on the ISS don’t risk that.) You also need to have a healthy diet and lifestyle to reap the full benefits of working out—things like getting enough sleep, appropriate nutrition, and social interaction. (All the things that some of us will “yada yada” and say we’ll get to later—they’re important too!)
The Last Word
Bottom line? If you’re looking for a way to improve your mental health as well as your physical health, head to the gym and hit the weights. (Or the elliptical, or the treadmill… as long as you’re moving instead of sitting at home, you’re doing great!)
If you’re not sure where to start, improving your core strength is never a bad idea. Check out Pillars of Strength: Ways to Solidify Your Core for some tips you can use next time you’re at the gym. And if you need some more guidance, a coach or personal trainer can help you develop a workout plan that’s tailored to your training needs and goals.