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Eager to Motivate

5 Ways Physical Activity Can Level Up Your Mental Fitness Game

Mental Health

By Carolyn Clansy Miller, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when we focus on raising awareness of mental health needs. While there are many discussions about the impact of psychotherapy and medication on the treatment of mental health conditions, the power and influence of physical fitness and nutrition on mental well-being is lesser known. In this blog post, we’ll explore five ways incorporating physical activity and nutritional excellence can level up your mental fitness game.

Turn Up Your Workout to Turn Down Stress

Exercise is more than just a game changer for your weight loss journey—it’s also a powerful tool for reducing stress. Moderate movement can lower cortisol, the notorious stress hormone. Additionally, when you are active, your body activates endorphins, the powerful stress-busting and inoculating neurotransmitter that naturally dials down feelings of overwhelm and pumps up your rest and digest response. So, turning up your activity by engaging in a brisk walk, flowing through a yoga session, or crushing a cardio or strength training workout will not only help you elevate your sweat score, it can also boost your mental health by lowering stress and promoting mental clarity, focus, and resilience.

Eat, Move, Smile

Have you ever hit the pavement and experienced euphoria at the end of your run? The runner’s high is totally legit. When you grind it out during a workout, you not only shed pounds, you also tap into a cocktail of “feel good” neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine. Stimulating these biochemicals is key in regulating your mood and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Adding regular exercise to your daily routine will not only move you toward your weight loss goals but will also improve your mood and emotional well-being. Further, adding a variety of vegetables, fiber-rich foods, and healthy fermented options into your diet does more than help you lose unwanted pounds. These dietary choices can enhance your microbiome and gut health, which are closely linked to mood regulation. Understanding this link can empower you to make informed choices about how to support positive mental health through physical fitness and quality nutrition.

Move for Better Sleep

Having trouble sleeping? A good workout may be just what you need to regulate your circadian rhythms, your body’s internal clock. Regular exercise is crucial in helping you enjoy and spend more time in a deeper, more restorative sleep. Additionally, better sleep leads to better brain health, improved mood regulation, and overall emotional well-being. Try hitting the gym for a morning workout or enjoy an evening slow flow stretch before going to bed and watch how movement will turn sleepless nights into energetic mornings.

Exercise to Build Self Confidence

Activating your activity level may be just what you need to enhance your self-esteem, self-confidence, and overall mental health. Achieving your fitness goals does more than sculpt your body composition, it empowers you and transforms your self-image. When you exercise, you are building more than muscle, you are also building a mentally stronger and more confident you. Together, diet and exercise have the power to nourish the body and mind, help to improve your outlook and catapult you into the highest and most powerful expression of yourself.

Building Bonds Through Activity

Group exercise can provide a sense of support and accountability necessary to help you reach your fitness goals. Additionally, belonging to a fitness community encourages healthy coping and may activate oxytocin, the bonding hormone that promotes stress reduction and mood regulation. Having a workout buddy or a fitness family can support your fitness plan and is a coping resource that may help co-regulate you when you are under stress and your nervous system is activated. Whether you are taking a walk with a friend or exercising with a tread or spin class, working out in community can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.

Let’s celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month by increasing physical activity and improving nutrition to positively impact our mental fitness. Regular exercise, and good nutrition can reduce stress, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and enhance social connections. Join E2M, a comprehensive fitness program for the body and mind.