We have all heard about exercise being good for the heart as well as every muscle in the body. The heart is a muscle, and it gets stronger and healthier if one leads an active life. It’s never too late to start exercising, and everyone at any fitness level can do something, even taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day can make a big difference.
Now, most folks agree that there is a physiological benefit to regular exercise, but what I’m proposing is that there is also a psychological benefit.
People who regularly exercise show positive moods and have lower rates of Depression. Even those who are diagnosed with mental health problems still benefit from regular exercise. Here are some key benefits:
Physically, exercise releases hormones called endorphins. These chemicals interact with receptors in the brain to reduce pain (ever heard of runner’s high, or nature’s pain meds?). Endorphin can also make you feel positive or a sense of euphoria. And over time as your body shape changes (losing weight or inches, or gaining muscle) and your health improves (climbing the stairs or chasing after the bus), your self-esteem also improves in the long term too.
Right after a break up we all go through; “What was wrong with me?” “Did I gain weight?” “Did s/he no longer find me attractive?” First off, if anyone is shallow enough to cheat or break up with a partner for physical changes, then you are better off without him or her. But regular exercise during tough times can improve your sense of self-worth because everyday you’re setting goals and pushing yourself (running that extra mile, lifting that extra 50 lbs…etc).
After my break up and when I was let go from work; going to the gym was what saved me. I always take classes because I prefer instruction as well as I get to socialize with other people in the class. It got me out of the house six days a week, instead of waking up in the morning “to do nothing” and stare at the walls. But when I came back home afterward, I always felt more positive about myself and my sense of worth (yes, I did feel worthless sometimes).
Let’s face it, if you recently have gone through a break up or lost your job or even a loved one; doing something, just about anything, to distract you from the pain in your heart or the anxiety of finding a job is good. As long as those distractions aren’t alcohol or drugs.
If you’re laying in bed or sitting at home and
thinking dwelling on negative thoughts that feed Depression and Anxiety, then you need to do something to distract you. Emotional pain is the worst pain one can have, there is not an ointment, pill, or an injection that can reach deep enough to heal a broken heart. However, dwelling and negative thinking will only make that pain worse. Exercise is a distraction that can get you to stop thinking those negative thoughts.
Losing my job was devastating. I constantly thought about how I was a top-performer at work, but if I had pushed a little harder then maybe when it came down to the decision, they would have chosen another person and not me. That type of negative thinking would have definitely put me in the dumps to hinder my job search. Not to mention, the thoughts I had weren’t true. However, during my time of unemployment, I went to the gym 3 hours a day and vigorously pushed myself through boot camp and aerobics. The hours of cardiovascular and muscle training had left me in pain nearly everyday. Trust me when I say I had a hard time walking in the morning. But something about displacing that emotional pain for the physical one, kept those nasty thoughts at bay.
Hell, I guess thinking about my quad muscles falling off the bone was a great distraction!
So here are some tips if you’ve never exercised:
Start small, again, going for a walk for 30 minutes can vastly improve your mood and health. If you’re thinking of joining a gym, many will let you try their facilities for free before you commit to any membership or program. The most important thing is that you enjoy it, and that the classes or facilities can accommodate your needs. Memberships can be expensive, but the good news is that many health insurance companies will reimburse you for membership costs.
Exercise is good for the broken heart. Its one of the best coping mechanisms for the mind, body, and soul. Obviously, those who have physical or mental health problems, should consult with their healthcare provider before starting any type of exercise regimen. Physical activity is the one thing I look forward to everyday; and after exercising today and spending 3 and half hours playing softball afterwards, I was inspired to write this post. This week, I started to feel the anxiety of waiting to hear from grad schools and its nearing the anniversary of one the worst periods of my life with Jon.
But guess what? I didn’t really think about it much today.