Too much of anything isn’t good for the mind or body. Balance is the key to well-being
The powerful mind-body connection goes both ways.
Not only is there mounting evidence that physical activity affects your mental health, but your mental and emotional state can also play a role in your physical health — and your ability to exercise.
Ultimately, the more you move, the better you feel. And the better you feel, the more you’ll want to continue moving. Your body will get stronger, fitter, faster and healthier.
However, it can be overdone. And that can cause a downward spiral that results in unhealthy habits, thoughts and emotions. Without limitations, exercise can become a detriment to your well-being.
Boosting your mental health
What we physically do throughout the day can affect us long after we end a workout.
Those who move regularly show signs of better mental health, more stable emotional well-being, and lower rates of overall mental illnesses and disorders.
And it's not just preventative, either — exercise is used often in helping treat patients who are suffering from mental health issues like anxiety. And some studies show it to be just as efficient as medications and behavioral therapy.
How does movement help us mentally?
When you exercise, your serotonin and dopamine levels increase, improving mood, boosting endorphins, and creating that happy environment in your head.
Those chemicals can boost your memory and improve your ability to reason. And the more you move, the better you sleep at night, reducing stress and minimizing anxiety. Plus the more rested you feel, the more likely you are to be in the mood to take on another day at the gym.
So even if you don’t feel energized to go on that run, doing so anyway can increase your energy levels and resolve. That’s because movement helps motivate you, improves your self-esteem, sense of control, and distracts you from negative thoughts.
The more you move, the better you feel. The better you feel, the more you want to move again.
Pushing too far
Although physical exercise can come with a whole list of health benefits — both for your brain and body — pushing it too far can hurt more than help.
It’s rare but over exercising can lead to obsessive thoughts, poor psychological or emotional behaviors, and eating or weight disorders in extreme cases.
Pushing yourself too far can also have some physical consequences, including fatigue, inflammation and injury.
Building a better mind and body
Most things are great when done in moderation. For example, having a healthy fitness routine is highly beneficial when there’s a balance of tending to both your physical and your mental health.
To help you avoid going to the extremes, here are some tips:
- Take it step by step. Although “Monday motivation” might be running high on the first day, pushing yourself to reach unrealistic daily goals may take its toll on your progress. Starting small can not only help your body adjust physically, but it can also help you avoid anxiety over an unsurmountable workout or depression that you weren’t able to hit your target goals.
- Do what you enjoy. You don’t have to dread your workout. Any activity that gets you moving can count toward your exercise goals for the day or week. If you enjoy the views around your apartment complex, convince a neighbor to come along for a walk, set up a garden plot in your backyard and get planting, or enroll in a community center’s dance class. If you’re having a good time moving, you’re more likely to stick with it.
- Grab a buddy. Your chances of sticking with a plan automatically increase if you have a fitness friend. No matter if you grab your partner, kids, friends or a family member, doing it together can make something much more achievable — and you can feel more motivated to complete it. Plus, you most likely will have much more fun than you would on your own.
Sticking with the cycle
When you get in a rhythm of doing better and feeling better, you’ll be a better version of yourself. Fortunately, you don't have to make drastic, over-the-top changes to see a transformation. So whether you’re focusing on improving your mental, physical or emotional health, the other benefits will follow.
Don’t wait. You can always make improvements today that your future self will feel tomorrow.