What's the Connection Between Working Out and Mental Health?

Posted in: Health + Wellness

Written by: Megan Percy. Megan is a movement coach who is passionate about helping clients and people in her community live a pain-free, strong, mobile life. She is a life-long learner of the human body and loves to inspire others to optimize their well-being. Megan specializes in teaching three dimensional exercise, soft-tissue work and yoga. Find Megan on Instagram: @meganpercyy.

I remember when I was younger, my Dad would get home from work slightly stressed, silently take off his uniform, and jump right into a white t-shirt, gray sweatpants cut into shorts, and a pair of Nike Air Max Axis.

He then would proceed to the garage, turn on his favorite radio station, and return an hour later, stinky, with a face that was drenched in sweat.  But, what stood out to me most, was the change in his demeanor as he walked back into the living room. He became calmer.

No matter what day it was, I could always count on him walking into the garage one way and then back out as a different man.

Today, everywhere we look we see advertisements for a new workout tool, yoga studios popping up on every corner, and now can even have  personal cycling classes in our own living room! The reason why fitness is growing in popularity is a multi-faceted answer that I could spend months researching; but the most important reason I want you (and the entire world) to know and care about fitness is IT HELPS YOU FEEL GOOD.

This is the number one thing that I tell my clients to focus on when the big, powerful, in-bold-letters question “Why should I even exercise today?” floats past their minds.

We all know we should do it, but external motivation is rarely good enough to push us to put on our sneakers. The real winner here is doing it because, again, it helps you feel good. On those days we are stressed, anxious, or even lethargic, exercise is the one thing we can almost always count on to set our mood to a positive tone.

Working out for mental health

Everyday movement has big impacts on mental healthEveryday movement has big impacts on mental health

Here are just a few of the amazing mental health benefits of exercise:

The correlation between exercise and improved mental health is astounding! It is like a free medication without negative side effects and can be done at anytime, anywhere. 

Document your own mental health benefits of exercise

Do a pre and post-workout self-reflection to see how exercise impacts your own mental healthDo a pre and post-workout self-reflection to see how exercise impacts your own mental health

For those of us who find exercise daunting, I find it helpful to come back to recognizing how it shifts your mindset.

Here is a simple practice to bring awareness around how exercise impacts YOUR mood:

  • Before exercising, sit down, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths.
  • Grab a piece of paper and write three things you notice about your mood.
  • After 30 minutes of continuous movement (walking, mobility exercises, yoga, jogging etc.) take a comfy seat, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths again.
  • Grab the same piece of paper and write three things you notice about your mood after your movement session.
  • Observe your the differences in your mood before and after exercise, and see if anything has evolved or shifted positively.

This simple technique can help you easily answer the question: “Why should I even exercise today?”

Just as my Dad took the time to move in a way that brought a bit of well-being into his life, I hope you find your “why” and experience the amazing benefits that exercise can bring to yours.

About the Author: Megan PercyAbout the Author: Megan Percy

February 3, 2021