If you think that physical benefits are all that come from a good workout…think again!! A good workout can not only produce amazing physical changes in ones body but the psychological or “mental” benefits are huge!!
You open your eyes. You sit up. You groan. Exhaustion fills every limb in your body, and all you want to do is lay back down. Instead, you fight your instincts. You stand. You dress. You get into your car, and you drive to the gym. Your class starts at seven sharp, and you’re five minutes early. You take a moment. You talk to the people around you. For the first time that morning, a smile crosses your face. Suddenly, you feel more awake than you have all morning. You feel ready to take on your day.
I’ll be the first to admit it: it’s hard to work out in the morning. I’m currently switching to a morning schedule, and getting up at 6:00 am to walk on the treadmill (I’m not quite ready to run that early in the morning) was more difficult than I expected. When I was done, however, I felt on top of the world: I was ready to take on whatever the day was going to throw at me. It made me think about the benefits of working out that extend past the physical “I get stronger” and “I can run for longer”. There’s a mental aspect to working out that doesn’t get near as much coverage as the physical aspects, and I’m here to remind you of the benefits your brain gets when you work out.
First and foremost, working out is a stress-reliever. Working out increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain, which makes you more alert, awake, and ready to take on the day. Working out in the evening also gives you the same level of alertness, but it also allows you to sweat away the pains and stresses of your day, and finish with a sense of serenity. In time, working out actually helps improve your brain-power by activating more growth-stimulating proteins, making it easier for you to learn things, focus, and be alert.
According to a study at Duke University, four months of daily physical activity is as effective a depression booster as prescription medication. Working out makes you feel good, and that’s the very first reason that you should consider a workout over chips and Netflix (pro-tip: set your treadmill up in front of a television—that way you can catch your favorite shows and get some exercise in!) Working out isn’t just a physical thing that makes you stronger; it makes you emotionally stronger as well. I work out every day during the school year, and I find that it helps regulate my emotions, manage my stress, and give me some consistent me time during a term full of papers, exams, and general stress. I have a friend with clinical anxiety who recently started working out, and within two months of exercise, she’s seeing a change in her body and her mind: a change that’s making her happier and helping her feel more like herself.
Finally, working out gives you confidence. You can feel good about your body, your strength, and your abilities. We’re constantly bombarded with media messages about how we should look, but through creating your own workout regime and seeing your own progress, you can be proud of your own body and your own achievements, no matter what the media tells you. The confidence that working out gives you can push you to accomplish your goals, which will take you far in life. It’s surprising, what big effects a small change in your life can have.
You wake up smiling. You stretch. You stand. You push gently up onto the balls of your feet and look out your window, taking in the beautiful sunrise. You quickly dress, and your feet tap out a rhythm on the floor as you blend your morning smoothie. You look at the clock, grinning when you see you still have an hour before your 7:00 am boot camp class. By the time you arrive you’ve eaten, checked your social media, and had some time to decompress and get ready for your morning workout. You take a moment and think back to the days when getting out of bed had been a chore, and you’re proud you challenged yourself to live a more active lifestyle. After all, it’s definitely made a positive difference in every aspect of your life.
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