Boosting Mental Health Through Fitness

What do you think of when you think of fitness? Some might think of exceptional athletes with perfectly sculpted bodies. Others might think of their weekly Zumba class. Neither would be wrong. Fitness means something different to everyone, but, for me specifically, fitness means better mental health.

Every time I walk up to a barbell I imagine myself loading it with all of my worries, doubts, fears, and anxieties. I pick it up with confidence and conquer it with each movement, whether that be through a deadlift or squat or power clean. The lightness I feel afterward is hard to explain, but, if I had to choose a word, it would be “freeing”.

On the days I don’t meet with my barbell I usually go for a run. There’s something therapeutic about the rhythmic slap of my feet against the pavement or a dirt trail. During this time I make myself clear my head. I try to focus on the music I’m listening to or the scenery around me. This is a time for movement. This is a time to leave those negative emotions at home.

Now is the moment I admit that I don’t always have the perfect workout schedule. Some days just getting out of the bed in the morning is a chore for me. Honestly, just being a walking breathing human takes every ounce of effort I have in me. It’s on these days that I try to force myself to do some sort of exercise. It doesn’t have to strenuous. It could be an extended walk with my dog or loosening up with a quick yoga video on YouTube. It’s the movement that calms my mind.

You don’t have to be a fitness guru to find the same benefits I have. You don’t even have to exercise every day to experience a positive shift in your mental health. Setting aside time for some sort of activity just three days a week can make a huge difference. I could throw a list of articles and studies your way to back me up, but that’s not necessary. The key, I think, is to get your body moving and to release those endorphins waiting to spark a little freedom or joy or ease within you.

This isn’t the ultimate cure, and it’s not always easy, but it will take you one step closer to a healthier mind and body. So, my challenge to you is to find something you enjoy (weightlifting, dancing, running, hiking, etc.) and to work it into your day, even if it’s just 30 minutes. You won’t regret it.

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